If you live on the planet called Earth, you are breathing in more mold spores than pollen on a daily basis. And that means that if you have a mold allergy – even a mild one – your mold allergy symptoms can flare up at any time and make you miserable.
Mold spores are the reproductive bit of the mold cluster itself and they float all around us, looking only for a hospitable place to land where they can do what they were designed to do – break down plant and animal material and essentially compost the entire earth. Unfortunately, now that we live in nice, toasty, airtight homes, the parts of our indoor environment that are darkest, warmest and most damp have become irresistible to mold. And where mold grows, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and more mold spores are released, making those of us with mold allergies quite sick.
Mold can be identified by the musty odor caused by those VOCs which also irritates your eyes, nose, and throat. Initial signs of an allergic reaction to VOCs and spores can be sinus drainage, upper respiratory problems and coughing that lasts for weeks if not months. In fact, when a mold allergy is severe, it can be a year round problem and can truly alter your enjoyment of life.
Serious, on-going mold infestations can cause breathing problems in people with mold allergies (especially children and the elderly) including chest tightness, shortness of breath and asthma. Over time, these problems can lead to a scarring of the lungs from which some people may never recover.
Mold removal at its source is critical for those who suffer from a mold allergy – and the good news is that when you do remove it, most people recover quickly. So, what should you look for and what should you do about it?
Mold Allergy Symptoms
Common mold allergy symptoms include:
- Itching, watery eyes
- Coughing, wheezing
- Sinus congestion and sinus headache
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Skin irritation including rashes and hives
More severe symptoms include:
- Reduced lung capacity and other asthma symptoms
- Nose bleeds
- Chest congestion
- Dizziness and mental confusion
A skin or blood test administered by an allergist can positively identify the presence of a mold allergy.
What to Do If You Have a Mold Allergy
Mold allergy symptoms flare up when your immune system decides that the mold spores in your environment are a threat to your survival and reacts by fighting the only way it knows how. OTC antihistamines and decongestants can help calm your allergic response but more severe responses may require allergy shots.
In the meantime, reduce your exposure to mold by removing it and preventing its reoccurrence.
- Remove the mold and the moisture that is feeding it, increase airflow and eliminate clutter.
- Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and dehumidifiers in suspect areas.
- Keep the humidity level in your home below 50%.
- Regularly use non-toxic mold cleaning products in bathrooms and kitchens including water-dependent appliances like refrigerators and water purification systems.
- Try to live without carpet – it’s a true safe haven for mold.
- Use moisture absorbing chemicals under beds, in closets and under sinks.
- Keep the place dry; clean up moisture problems like spills, overflows and floods immediately and well.
And remember that mold can grow in the craziest places so inspect everything … and don’t forget your HVAC system, washer and dryer, mattresses and pillows.