Outdoor Mold Allergy: Top Tips on the Seasonal Allergen

by Kathi MacNaughton Health Professional

Mold is one of the more common instigators of allergy symptoms. It can be found both indoors and out. This post will focus on outdoor mold and how you can manage your exposure to this allergen.

What You Need to Know About Mold

Mold is a type of fungus, an organism found naturally in our environment. Some varieties are more likely to be found indoors, while others are more common outdoors, including:

  • Alternaria

  • Cladosporium

  • Aspergillus (also found indoors)

  • Epicoccum

  • Fusarium

  • Aureobasidium

  • Phoma

  • Smuts

  • Rhizopus and Mucor (common leaf mold)

There are thousands of other types of mold, but the ones listed above are thought to be the most likely culprits when it comes to outdoor mold allergy.

When & Where These Outdoor Mold Spores Can Be Found

Molds can accumulate in any moist, dark area. But the most common locations are:

  • Piles of fallen, decaying leaves

  • Soil

  • Rotting logs

  • Decaying plants

As you can guess, in the autumn, when trees are shedding their leaves in bulk, and plants are beginning to die off, molds often take root and begin to circulate their spores at high levels, particularly in climates that are wet.

Fall activities that might present challenges for mold allergy sufferers include not only raking leaves, but also fall gardening, hiking, and camping in the woods.

Outdoor mold spores can begin circulating in late winter, but peak in late summer and fall. In warmer climates, though, mold spores may be present year-round.

How to Know if You Have Mold Allergy

The only way to know for sure if you have a sensitivity to any common allergen is to be tested for it by an expert in allergy testing, namely an allergist or immunologist. They can do a scratch test, where a small amount of the potential allergen is introduced into a very light scratch on your skin. Then they watch for a positive reaction, which usually includes itching, redness and/or swelling at the site.

But if you're not quite ready to commit to allergy testing, then watching for symptoms can give you some clues. The symptoms of outdoor mold allergy are the same as those for any other kind of allergy:

  • Sneezing

  • Nasal congestion

  • Itching of the nose, throat and oral cavity

  • Itchy, watery eyes

  • Runny nose

Keeping a record of when you notice these symptoms and what you were doing in the hour or two before you had them can help you and your doctor identify a probable mold allergy.

Tips for Managing an Outdoor Mold Allergy

First of all, know when outdoor mold spores are at risky levels by monitoring the mold levels in your locality. Pollen.com or the National Allergy Board or even Weather.com can be searched for current information at any time during the year, but especially when seasonal allergy symptoms from outdoor mold are most likely to be present.

If you find that outdoor mold spore levels are high, it's best to stay indoors as much as you can until the levels go down. If that's not possible, then at least try to stay away from piles of leaves and other sources of outdoor molds.

In addition, there are many options for treating seasonal allergies, including outdoor mold allergies. New treatment options are becoming available all the time, so it's a good idea to discuss with your personal physician which options might work best for you in controlling your mold allergy symptoms.

Kathi  MacNaughton
Meet Our Writer
Kathi MacNaughton

Kathi is an experienced consumer health education writer, with a prior career in nursing that spanned more than 30 years — much of it in the field of home health care. Over the past 15 years, she's been an avid contributor for a number of consumer health websites, specializing in asthma, allergy, and COPD. She writes not only as a healthcare professional, but also as a lifelong sufferer of severe allergies and mild asthma, and as a caregiver for her mother with COPD.