Mold Allergy: An Overview
Have you ever entered a damp, musty room that has been closed for a while or has an earthy smell and instantly began sneezing?
It may be due to a mold allergy!
Mold is a type of tiny fungi found indoors and outdoors.
The most common places to find molds are on dead, decomposing plants, in damp areas indoors, in bathrooms, kitchens, basements, or attics.
Fungi release spores as a means of reproduction.
When mold releases its spores into the air, it can trigger an allergy in sensitive people or those prone to allergies.
Sometimes, disturbing a mold can release its spores into the air.
Since molds can be found practically anywhere and in most weather types, mold allergies can occur throughout the year.
Due to this, many people experience aggravated allergies during the rainy months or early spring.
What Are The Causes of Mold Allergy?
Mold allergy is caused when one inhales airborne spores.
The spores enter the airways and trigger an immune reaction.
The body’s immune system cells produce certain chemicals to neutralize or kill these spores.
This results in allergic reactions.
Mold allergies are also more common in people who are allergic to other substances like dust, pollen, mites, and pet dander or have a family history of allergies.
Molds are of different types, and being allergic to one type does not mean you will be allergic to all molds or fungi.
People in some occupations are more likely to develop a mold allergy.
- Dairy workers
- Mill workers
- Carpenters and furniture makers
What Are The Symptoms of Mold Allergy?
The symptoms of mold allergy are similar to those of other allergies.
You can experience symptoms of mold allergy indoors and outdoors.
Some common symptoms include:
- Itchy nose, mouth, or lips
- Runny nose
- Postnasal drip
- Nasal congestion
- Asthma symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Swollen eyelids
Your allergy symptoms may appear immediately or may be delayed.
How Long Does It Take For Mold Allergy Reactions To Subside?
Like most other allergies, the duration in which mold allergy subsides depends upon your sensitivity to molds.
If you are not sensitive to mold, an allergy might not be long-lasting.
Moving away from a mold-ridden area can prevent aggravation of symptoms.
Medications prescribed by your doctor can also help alleviate symptoms.
Mold Allergy and Asthma
Mold allergy can trigger an asthma attack.
Though a high concentration of fungal spores almost always causes asthma in susceptible individuals, studies are still underway to prove the same.
It is important to note that asthma is usually triggered or aggravated in people who have a history of asthma.
Genetics of Mold Allergy
Genes can be a factor in susceptibility to mold toxicity leading to serious health challenges.
Those who carry specific changes in certain genes associated with immune responses are at increased risk for mold allergy.
The ADAD1 Gene
Adenosine deaminase domain-containing protein 1 or ADAD1 gene is located on chromosome 4 and is associated with celiac disease, eczema, allergic rhinitis, and asthma.
rs17388568 is a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the ADAD1 gene.
People with the A allele of this SNP are at an increased risk of developing allergies to different substances like pollen, dust, cats, mite, etc.
The IL2 Gene
Interleukin 2 or IL2 gene gives instructions to produce a protein that promotes the growth and proliferation of T and B lymphocytes.
rs2069772 is an SNP in the IL2 gene.
People with the C allele of this SNP have a greater risk of developing mold allergy than those with the normal T allele.
The ITGB3 Gene
Integrin subunit beta 3 or ITGB3 gene gives instructions for producing integrins, a type of protein that regulates cell growth proliferation and signaling.
These proteins are also critical for processes related to inflammation and infection.
rs2056131 is an SNP in the ITGB3 gene.
According to a study, people with the A allele had a lesser risk of developing mold-induced allergy than those with the G allele.
Risk Factors for Mold Allergy
Several factors can increase your risk of developing or aggravating mold allergy. These include:
- Having a family history of allergy
- Frequent exposure to mold due to occupation
- Living in a home with humidity higher than 50%
- Working or living in a building that is frequently exposed to excessive moisture in the form of leaky pipes, water seepage, or has undergone flood damage.
- Living or working in indoor spaces with poor ventilation
Complications Caused Due to Mold Allergy
Allergies can make one miserable.
However, sometimes mold allergies can be severe.
Some common complications that can occur if mold allergy is not treated in time include:
- Mold-induced asthma
- Fungal sinusitis
- Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
Diagnosis of Mold Allergy
If you experience frequent bouts of allergic symptoms, consult your doctor.
Your doctor may refer you to an allergist or an immunologist who specializes in determining the cause of your allergy symptoms.
After reviewing your medical and symptomatic history, the allergist will recommend blood and skin prick tests.
These tests are routinely used to diagnose mold allergy.
What Are The Different Types of Mold Allergy Tests?
A blood test for mold allergy includes an IgE test that verifies your allergic symptoms.
Skin prick tests are extremely accurate and give results in just a few minutes.
During this test, the allergist will use different types of mold or prick your skin to elicit a skin reaction.
They will determine a treatment plan for you based on the results of this test.
It may also be helpful to keep a diary of your symptoms and monitor what substances are triggering an allergic reaction.
Managing and Preventing Mold Allergy
If you suspect you are allergic to mold, the best way to prevent mold allergy is to prevent or reduce exposure.
Here are some ways to reduce your and your family’s exposure to mold:
- Use dehumidifiers to maintain optimum indoor humidity
- Use HEPA filter-equipped vacuum cleaners and air-purifiers
- Fix any water leakages in bathrooms, basement, and kitchen
- Ensure adequate ventilation in moist areas
- Limited indoor houseplants and keep them free from mold on leaves and potting soil
- Prevent outdoor molds from growing on your doors and windows
Is There A Treatment for Mold Allergy?
After evaluating and diagnosing your mold allergy, your doctor will most likely recommend antihistamines and decongestants to help control your symptoms.
You will be advised to wear a mask to avoid the aggravation of your symptoms or if you need to go back to an area with a higher risk of mold exposure.
If you are expecting mold exposure during your work or profession, taking your allergy medication in advance may help.
If you have been to an indoor or outdoor area with greater exposure to mold, it may help to rinse your nose with saline solution.
- Allergy to mold, a type of fungi found both indoors and outdoors is prevalent among all age groups.
- In certain people, the immune system overreacts to spores released from molds, resulting in severe allergic reactions.
- Mold allergies are common throughout the year as molds are found in all weather conditions.
- Being allergic to one type of mold doesn’t mean that you’ll be allergic to the other types.
- People carrying certain changes in the genes that regulate immune responses are at an increased risk for many allergies, including mold allergy.
- IgE test and skin prick test are very effective when it comes to diagnosing a mold allergy.
- Using HEPA filters, dehumidifiers, and ensuring good airflow in the house can help prevent mold allergies.
- Antihistamines and decongestants are the most recommended treatment options by the doctors for alleviating symptoms of mold allergy.