What is Mold Allergy?
Molds are a type of fungi which can be seen anywhere around us where there is a dampened or moist area. While most types of molds do not pose a health risk, there are some types of molds which can cause significant allergic reactions including an anaphylactic shock which can be potentially serious. The spores of the molds travel through air and they usually do so in the dry and windy weather. When these spores are inhaled then they cause allergic reactions. Some spores of molds also spread during the winter months when the dew is very high and there is dense fog which acts as a carrier of these spores.
The most common time when Mold Allergy is at its peak are the months between July to early fall months but since molds can grow all year hence Mold Allergy can strike all around the year. Most types of molds become dormant during the winter months but again become active when spring arrives starting off the Mold Allergy season. In cases of a Mold Allergy, there is an overreaction of the body's immune system when an individual inhales spores of the molds causing the individual to cough, have itchy eyes, and make it tough for the individual to carry out activities. It also causes breathing problems in some individuals, especially those with a known diagnosis of asthma.
What Causes Mold Allergy?
Just like any other form of allergy, Mold Allergy symptoms are also triggered as a result of the body's immune system which identifies the inhaled spores of the mold as a foreign invader and attacks it by making antibodies. Once the exposure is over and done with, the body still produces antibodies so that they can fight off the invader when there is another exposure to such molds. This results in release of histamines which causes, runny nose, eye itching, sneezing and other symptoms of Mold Allergy. There are various types of molds present in the atmosphere and not all of them cause allergy symptoms. There are only a few types of molds that cause allergy. These types of molds are alternaria, aspergillus, cladosporium and penicillium.
What are the Symptoms of Mold Allergy?
The symptoms of Mold Allergy are similar to the symptoms caused by any other allergy. Some of the symptoms of Mold Allergy are:
- Persistent sneezing
- Runny nose
- Nose congestion
- Persistent cough with a postnasal drip
- Eye itching
- Watery eyes
- Dry skin.
The symptoms of Mold Allergy differ from individual to individual and range from moderate to severe. In some individuals, the symptoms of Mold Allergy may stay throughout the year and for some individuals they may occur only at certain periods of time or season. In majority of the cases, the symptoms of Mold Allergy are noticed when the weather is damp or when the individual is at a place where the moisture content is very high in the atmosphere like a basement or near a lake or river.
How is Mold Allergy Diagnosed?
Before Mold Allergy is diagnosed, the physician will conduct test based on the symptoms to rule out other conditions causing the symptoms. Once these conditions are ruled out then an allergy test will be conducted to confirm the diagnosis of Mold Allergy. These tests are:
Skin Prick Test: In this test, common allergens like molds are used and applied to the skin in the arm or the back with tiny punctures made. If an individual is allergic to molds he or she will develop a bump at the site where the allergen was applied. This will confirm the diagnosis of Mold Allergy.
Blood Test: A blood test may also be done to confirm the diagnosis of Mold Allergy. In this a blood draw is taken and sent to the laboratory to test for sensitivity to certain types of molds. If the test comes back positive then it confirms the diagnosis of Mold Allergy.
How is Mold Allergy Treated?
The best way to treat Mold Allergy is to avoid exposure to molds and avoid areas where one might encounter molds like visiting a lake or a river in late summer or early fall, although one cannot completely avoid molds and some exposure is always there. The runny and stuffy nose caused by Mold Allergy cannot be completely treated the symptoms can be reduced to a minimum by taking medications. Some of the medications used for this purpose are:
Nasal Corticosteroids: These types of medications are available in the form of sprays and can treat the inflammation caused by Mold Allergy. Some of the medications that come under this class are Flonase, Nasonex, Nasacort, and Rhinocort.
Antihistamines: These types of medications are used to treat sneezing and runny nose caused by Mold Allergy. The mechanism of action for these types of medications is by blocking histamine released by the immune system during exposure to molds. Some of the antihistamines that are easily available over the counter are Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec.
Oral Decongestants: There are also some oral decongestants also available over the counter which is quite effective in treating Mold Allergy and include Sudafed and Drixoral. Oral decongestants have a side effect of raising the blood pressure and hence should be avoided in people with hypertension. One of the most commonly used decongestants is Afrin.
Singulair: This is also known by the name of Montelukast and is a tablet which is quite effective in treatment of Mold Allergy.
Immunotherapy: This is a form of treatment in which allergy shots are given to ease the symptoms of Mold Allergy. Allergy shots are used for only certain types of Mold Allergy.
Nasal Lavage: This is an easy process to get rid of the annoying nasal symptoms caused due to Mold Allergy. This can be done by rinsing the nose with warm water with a pinch of salt in it. This is quite an effective treatment to ease the nasal symptoms of Mold Allergy.