A Mold allergy is a very common allergy that effects millions of people. Mold, also called mildew or fungus, is an organic substance that is often recognized by its musty smell. In most cases, we breathe mold spores in our homes, schools, work places, and even outdoors, and are not even aware of their existence. That is, until we begin to have mold allergy symptoms from inhaling the mold spores. Because mold spores are ubiquitous to most environments, a person with a mold allergy can be symptomatic daily, or can exhibit mold allergy symptoms when spore counts are highest, generally from July to late summer. Fortunately, there are many recommended allergy products on the market that can help tremendously with mold allergy relief, including air purifiers for allergies(specifically a HEPA air purifier), HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner, dehumidifiers, and allergy bedding such as mattress and pillow encasements.
The component of mold that causes a mold allergy is the reproductive seeds - called spores. These spores are extremely unique and their identification can only be differentiated microscopically based on the size, shape, color, and other characteristics. Each spore has the capability of germination and creating millions of new spores. These spores become problematic when they become airborne and are breathed into the nose or lungs of someone with mold allergies. One can inhale up to one-half million more spores per minute without even knowing it! There are literally thousands of types of molds, but only a few are responsible for the majority of mold allergies. The major culprits are: Alternaria, Cladosporium (Hormodendrum), Aspergillus, Epicoccum, Helminthosporium, Penicillium, Fusarium, Mucor, Rhizopus, and Aureobasidium (Pullaria).
Molds live on a diet of moisture and oxygen and are therefore found in damp areas, both indoors and outdoors. An environment with high humidity, especially indoors in homes and “sick buildings”, sets the stage for mold growth and the potential for mold allergies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that between one-third and one-half of all buildings in the United States have enough moisture to facilitate mold growth.
In the home, bathrooms (especially shower stalls), damp basements, crawlspaces, and kitchens are the most likely sources of mold spore production. If any part of the home has experienced water damage, it is almost certain that mold can be found in that area. Fungi on house plants and soil can also be a source of exposure, but generally only if the soil is disturbed.
Outdoors, mold and mildew will be found on rotting logs and fallen leaves, especially in shady, moist areas. Compost piles, grain bins, and silos will also contain extremely high levels of mold spores. Some molds attach themselves to grains such as wheat, oats, corn and barley. It is not surprising that farmers, dairymen, loggers, mill workers, greenhouse employees, and bakery and brewery workers are at high risk for developing mold allergies.
Mold allergy symptoms are generally indistinguishable from those of dust mite allergy or other sources of perennial or year-round allergies, including runny nose, nasal congestion, sinus pain and pressure, post-nasal drainage, sneezing, and itching of the eyes, nose, or throat. A more serious complication which can result from the inhalation of mold spores is chronic fungal sinusitis. When breathed into the lungs, mold spores can result in recurrent or chronic asthma. In rare cases, inhalation of the mold spores of the aspergillus family can result in allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis.
There is only weak evidence that the eating of food fungi such as mushrooms or yeast cause mold allergy symptoms. A more likely explanation for symptoms which result from the ingestion of food fungi are the foods’ direct effect on the blood vessels, such as the effect of histamine which can be produced with the fermentation of red wines. It is important to note that there is no correlation between an allergy to the mold penicillium and the antibiotic, penicillin.
Once the diagnosis of mold allergy is made by your allergist, it is important that all efforts are made to minimize exposure to mold spores, especially in the home. In essence, the best mold allergy treatment is simply, mold avoidance. In practical terms, however, it is impossible to totally rid one’s home or environment of mold, but lessening exposure can go a long way toward allergy relief. It is therefore worthwhile investing the time and effort in trying to make the home as mold free as possible. Allergists recommend many allergy products on the market that can help mold allergic individuals get a handle on their mold allergy.
Firstly, one should repair any leaks or problems leading to mold growth in your home immediately, and remove all materials that may have been damaged by water, including wood surfaces or flooring, wall paper, and carpet. Keep exterior surfaces of your home properly sealed, and avoid piling wood or leaves near your home, as they collect moisture. Clean showers and tubs at least once a month with bleach, and wash out garbage receptacles frequently. Reducing the number of indoor plants can also reduce the mold spores circulating in the air.
Make sure your home is adequately ventilated. Hidden mold often grows inside HVAC systems. An allergy relief vent filter will trap the mold before it reaches you.
A HEPA air purifier will remove a minimum of 99.97% of all mold spores in your home. A Whole house HEPA filter is available for the central HVAC system, or relatively inexpensive portable units are available for the individual rooms. A HEPA air purifier is the only kind of recommended air purifier for allergies.
Using HEPA vacuum cleaners can also be extremely effective in removing microscopic mold spores deep in carpets and rugs.
It is very helpful to monitor the humidity in the home with a hygrometer, or humidity gauge. Since mold needs high moisture content to grow, keep the indoor humidity between 40 and 50 percent. If the humidity is above 50-55%, use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air.
It is very important that allergy bedding such as mattress and pillow encasements be placed on bedding made of polyurethane and rubber foams, as these materials are especially prone to fungus invasion. These encasements also serve as a barrier between the allergic patient and dust mites, another common cause of year-round allergy symptoms.
Mold problems affecting less than 10-square foot areas are generally manageable by homeowners. When the affected area is greater than this, the EPA and other agencies advise seeking professional assessment. If you are concerned with specific items that may have mold infestation, particularly those of sentimental or monetary value, consult a specialist to help you clean these items.