Mold

Allergies occurs when the immune system over-reacts to substances (allergens) that are usually harmless. People can develop allergies to molds. Mold spores are carried in the air and may be present all year long. Mold is most common indoors in damp locations such as basements, bathrooms, or washrooms. Fabrics, rugs, stuffed animals, books, or wallpaper can contain mold spores if they are kept in a damp place. Outdoors, mold lives in the soil, on compost, and on damp vegetation.

When a person with allergies breathes in an allergen, the body releases histamine and other chemicals as part of the immune response. This causes itching and swelling, mucus production, and in serious cases, hives and rashes, as well as other symptoms. Symptoms vary in severity from person to person. Most environmental allergens contact the skin or eyes, or are inhaled. Therefore, most symptoms affect the skin, eyes, or the breathing passages.

Common Symptoms

  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing—can trigger asthma
  • Hives
  • Itching of the nose, eyes, throat, or skin
  • Rash
  • Redness in the eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sinus pressure
  • Sneezing
  • Tearing eyes
  • Wheezing

Exams and Tests

The doctor will take a detailed medical history and ask you questions about your symptoms. He will also do a physical exam. Allergy testing is done to see identify the specific allergens that are causing your symptoms. Skin testing is the most common and useful method. If your doctor determines that you cannot undergo skin testing, a blood test to look for IgE antibodies to a specific allergen may be helpful.

Treatment

The best treatment is to avoid being around molds. Mold spores are everywhere. You can reduce your exposure to mold by following these steps:

  • Keep rooms dry, and use a dehumidifier, if necessary.
  • Throw out moldy or mildewed articles (such as books, toys, and shoes).
  • Use synthetic fabrics for clothing and household furnishings whenever possible. Disinfect bathrooms, basement walls, and furniture with diluted bleach or other disinfectant solutions.

Allergy shots (immunotherapy) are occasionally recommended if the substance you are allergic to cannot be avoided and if symptoms are hard to control.