Mold is a common trigger of nasal allergy symptoms and asthma, but you can take steps to avoid mold and prevent triggering your allergies.
Molds... yuck! A fungus -- that's disgusting, right? And what does mold have to do with nasal allergies and asthma? The answer to that question is, "Quite a lot, actually."
Both indoor and outdoor molds are common allergy triggers, resulting in the following symptoms:
- Stuffy nose/head
- Runny nose/post-nasal drip
- Itchy nose and/or throat
- Itchy, watery, burning, red eyes
So, What ARE Molds Exactly?
Molds, or more correctly, mold spores are tiny fungi that are widespread in most homes. This isn't the type of mold that strikes fear into our hearts with images of severe illness and death. That type of mold is usually referred to as "black mold" (and is known scientifically as stachybotrys chartarum). It is found in 2% to 5% of American homes. Under certain environmental conditions, stachybotrys chartarum may produce several toxic chemicals called mycotoxins, but there is currently no evidence that the small airborne levels found in residential settings are harmful to humans.
Likewise, more common,everyday household mold is not harmful to non-allergic people.
But those of us who are sensitive to mold spores may find that they are significant triggers of our allergy symptoms. Chances are, you have seen mold in your home from time to time, such as that mildew growing on your shower grout or the greenish fuzz on a rotting peach in your refrigerator.
Mold spores love warm, dark humid areas, such as those found in bathrooms, under kitchen sinks or in the basement. But mold spores grow outdoors too and often live in garden soil, in grass cuttings, on hay and in fall leaves on the ground. They may also grow on crops such as wheat, corn and soybeans.
Mold counts can fluctuate widely, but mold is usually present in the outdoors almost year-round, especially in climates that never get really cold.
Clues You May Be Allergic to Mold
If you notice your symptoms get worse when you:
- Rake fall leaves
- Work in the garden
- Are near field crops
- Go into your basement, kitchen or bathroom
, then mold spore allergies may be at work. Or, if your symptoms persist year-round, mold may be part of the reason (dust is likely to be the rest of it). You can also be tested for mold allergies, if you're still not sure.
What to Do If You ARE Allergic to Mold
Once you determine that mold is one of your allergy triggers, then the key is to do all you can to remove mold spores from your indoor environment and to avoid outdoor molds. Here are some ways you can do that:
- Track outdoor mold counts & stay indoors when counts are high.
- Use air conditioning with the windows closed, both in the house and in the car.
- Don't rake or play in fallen leaves.
- Avoid mucking about in the garden or potting indoor plants.
- Clean bathrooms and other mold-friendly places often, with an antifungal solution.
- Keep your indoor environment as dry as possible.
- When re-painting indoors, use paint or primer with a mold inhibitor.
All those efforts are worth it, but may still not totally eliminate your symptoms. In that case, you may need to use antihistamines or other allergy treatments to stay in control. Talk with your doctor about the best approach for you.
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See also: Can You Bust 10 Mold Allergy Myths?