Mold is a naturally occurring substance as it is an integral part of the outdoor environment and it plays a large role in the breakdown of leaves, wood, and other plant debris. When it grows indoors however, it can have serious health consequences. Molds are a type of fungus, which need moisture to grow; as such they are found in damp and poorly ventilated areas. Potential sources of moisture include leaking pipes, leaking roofs and windows, and floods. Most molds gather their food from dead moist organic matter such as wood, paper, fabric, dust, plant soil, and cooked or raw food; however, they can also grow on the surface of damp materials such as glass. Molds spread by releasing thousands of tiny spores into the air and these spores are a source of indoor air pollution, which lead to mold allergy.
What is mold allergy?
Mold allergy occurs when an individual is exposed to microscopic fungal spores from mold. Since these spores are small, they can evade the protective mechanisms of the nose and upper respiratory tract, and consequentially the lungs.
There are different types of mold; however, only certain types cause mold allergies. These include alternaria, aspergillus, clasdosporium, penicillium, helminthosporum, epicoccum, fusarium, and phoma, to mention a few. Mold allergy occurs when an individual comes in contact with the mold spores, causing an immune response where the body thinks that they are foreign invaders and develop an antibody to fight them. This causes the body to release histamines, which cause itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing and other symptoms related to mold allergy. Even after the exposure has passed, the body will still continue to produce antibodies, which will remember the mould spores (invaders) the next time contact occurs.
Symptoms of mold allergy are similar to those which occur in other primary respiratory allergies.
Common symptoms include,
– Runny nose
– Nasal congestion
– Itchy, watery and red eyes
– Breathing difficulties
Mold spores can deposit on the lining of the nose, consequential causing hay fever symptoms, and can also reach the lungs causing asthma or allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis.
Avoid contact with mold spores
This is the best treatment for mold allergy. To help reduce symptoms of mold allergy drastically, avoid cutting grass, digging around plants or picking leaves. If you must do any of these activities, ensure you wear a dust mask.
Antihistamines, bronchodilators and corticosteroids are used to relieve the symptoms of mold allergy as there is no sure way of curing mold allergy. Corticosteroids help prevent and treat inflammation and they are the most effective allergy medicines for most people, and as such are usually prescribed first. Antihistamines help with itching, sneezing and runny nose, and work by blocking histamine which is released by the immune system during an allergy reaction.
This involves administrating a series of allergy shots to help eliminate some allergies. However, immunotherapy is only moderately effective against mold allergy.
This is usually recommended to help with irritating nasal symptoms. It involves rinsing the nose with salt water and can be effective in relieving congestion.
Tips for Prevention
• Keep damp areas such as bathrooms well ventilated
• Refrigerants should be kept clean, watch out for mouldy food.
• Avoid damp and musty buildings and where HAY is stored.
• Avoid cutting grass, raking leaves and turning compost heaps.
• Keep all bathroom surfaces clean.
• Get rid of old foam pillows and mattresses.
• Do not store clothing or shoes in damp cupboards; leave wardrobes doors ajar to ventilate the clothes.
• Control indoor moisture by using a dehumidifier.
• Reduce the amount of indoor house plants and ensure those present are free of mold on leaves and in potting soil.
• Throw away or recycle old books, newspapers, clothing or bedding.