In this article:
Mold is a type of fungus with several species, some of which are known to cause allergies in humans. The most common culprits for triggering such reactions are Alternaria alternata, Aspergillus fumigatus, Cladosporium herbarum, and Penicillium notatum. (1)
The breeding process for mold is different from that of plants or animals. They have microscopic seeds called spores that float in the air and proliferate when they land on a damp surface. This can happen both in indoor and outdoor settings.
Indoor mold species usually grow in areas that trap a lot of moisture such as the bathroom, basement, and kitchen. (2) They tend to remain active throughout the year.
Outdoor mold species usually thrive on decaying logs, dead leaves and plants, compost piles, grass, and grains. They don’t grow during winter but become active during spring when they thrive on plants killed by the cold.
Breathing in the airborne mold spores or skin contact with them can often trigger an allergic reaction in people. There is an increased concentration of mold spores in the environment from July to early fall, which is why mold allergies tend to flare up quite often during this period.
However, some types of mold (especially indoor ones) can grow during all seasons, which means the threat of an allergic reaction is never truly gone. (3)
Symptoms of Mold Allergy
Mold allergies are similar to other respiratory allergies and are generally characterized by the following symptoms:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Eye irritation
- Itchy throat
- Dry/scaly skin
- Mold can also trigger or exacerbate asthma attacks. (4)
Treatment for Mold Allergies
Here are some commonly used medical interventions for managing mold allergies:
- Mild mold allergies can easily be treated at home with nasal decongestants to clear a stuffy nose, nasal antihistamines to relieve a runny or itchy nose, and nasal steroids (corticosteroids) to reduce inflammation inside the nose that makes it clog up. Nasal decongestants are easily available over the counter, as are antihistamines such as Claritin, Benadryl, or Zyrtec, but you may need a prescription for steroids.
- Mold allergies that cause severe respiratory symptoms or asthma require proper medical treatment by a doctor. (5)
- Immunotherapy in the form of getting allergy shots can help desensitize your body to foreign allergens such as mold over time. This reduces the frequency and severity of allergic reactions, if not stopping them altogether. (6)
Ways to Prevent Mold Allergies
Here are a few measures that can keep your mold allergy from flaring up:
- Avoid going out when there is high mold count in the environment to minimize exposure and prevent allergies. If you inhale concentrated amounts of mold spores, you run the risk of severe allergic symptoms, including asthma attacks that are commonly reported in times of a thunderstorm. (7)
- If you are going to be in close proximity to a potential mold source such as when working in a garden or a lawn, make sure to put on s dust mask to keep yourself from inhaling the spores. Also, consider taking allergy medication beforehand to avoid a reaction. After you complete the work, thoroughly rinse your nose with a saline solution to remove any mold spores that may have found their way in. Plus, immediately take a shower and change into clean clothes. (8)
- Install a certified asthma- and allergy-friendly filter in your air conditioner to block outdoor mold spores from getting into your home environment. (9)
- Mold often grows in damp and poorly ventilated indoor spaces such as bathrooms, basements, and laundry areas. So, it is very important that you regularly monitor these areas for mold growth and take active measures to keep them as dry and airy as possible. To that end, switch on the exhaust fan or open a window in the bathroom while bathing. Get rid of carpeting from areas where it can easily get wet.
- Check your sinks and tubs for mold every month.
- If you notice any plumbing leak, get it fixed as soon as possible to prevent mold growth.
- Switch on the exhaust in the kitchen when cooking or doing the dishes to reduce humidity.
- Don’t let your clothes sit in the washing machine for too long. Once the washing cycle is complete, put the clothes out to dry promptly. Similarly, don’t let damp clothes lie around for too long. Get them washed and dried without delay to protect them from mold.
- The closed confines of a washing machine tend to be moist, creating a conducive environment for mold growth. So, it is important to remove the cover or open the door of the machine after each wash cycle until it dries completely. Also, wash the rubber lining and inner side of the door of a front-loading washing machine to get rid of any mold.
- Get an electric dehumidifier to reduce moisture in your home environment such that it remains below 45%. Make sure to drain and clean the dehumidifier regularly.
- Keep your house properly ventilated by opening doors between rooms, switching on fans, and keeping a gap between your furniture and the walls. This will facilitate air flow inside your living space and thereby deter mold growth.
- Repair roof leaks and roof gutters. Leaves, dirt, and other debris accumulate inside gutters to cause blockage and damage, which could result in leaks. Thus, it is crucial that you clean your gutters regularly and repair any leaks without delay. (10)
- If there are any leaks in your roof, get them repaired quickly.
Herbs That Treat Mold Allergies
Certain medicinal herbs can help in managing mold allergies. These include the following:
How to use:
- Chew 2–3 garlic cloves every day to relieve the symptoms of a mold allergy.
- Boil 3–4 chopped garlic cloves in a cup of water for 10 minutes, strain the liquid in a glass, stir in some raw honey, and drink this tonic two times a day until the allergy clears.
- You can also ask your doctor to put you on a garlic supplement.
2. Wild oregano
How to use:
Steep wild oregano in boiling water for 3 minutes, filter the liquid into a mug, mix in some honey until it dissolves, and drink it.
3. Olive leaf extract
Olive leaf extract works as an antifungal agent that curbs mold growth inside the body (14) and thereby treats the source of the allergy rather than just the symptoms.
How to use:
Drop 1 to 2 droplets of olive leaf extract oil on a cotton ball and place it on the affected area.
Echinacea is known to bolster the immune system to better equip your body in combating mold allergy. (15)
How to use:
Drink echinacea tea.
5. Ginger extract
Ginger extract is considered as effective as the antihistamine medication loratadine in curbing nasal symptoms in patients with asthma. (16)
How to use:
Drink ginger tea.
Foods: What to Eat and What Not to Eat
Here are a few dietary recommendations that can help in the management of mold allergies:
- Yogurt is full of probiotics or good bacteria that kill yeast inside the body. (17) Yeast serves as a food source for mold, allowing it to grow and overtake the entire system and cause an extreme allergic reaction. Thus, including yogurt in your daily diet can help prevent this from happening.
- Consume foods that are rich in vitamin C, such as oranges and tomatoes. Vitamin C helps boost your immunity to help the body fight off mold allergy and reduce its symptoms. (18)
- Limit your intake of sugar and wheat, which mold feeds on to grow inside the body and trigger severe allergic reactions.
When to See a Doctor
Do visit a doctor or allergist in the following cases:
- If symptoms persist or worsen despite recommended care
- If you experience severe wheezing, coughing, and breathing difficulties, which are signs of a more serious complication called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, which involves both an allergic and inflammatory response to the mold.
If you have any inkling of a mold allergy, it’s best to consult a specialist for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Since this is a long-term condition that requires long-term management, the allergist will guide you about the dos and don’ts to minimize future attacks and the severity of symptoms.
They will give you all the necessary information to tackle this problem in the best way possible so that it does not become an impediment that hampers your overall quality of life. Given that mold is present almost all year round, this kind of briefing is all the more important.
After that initial consultation, you can continue treating the condition at home as per your doctor’s instructions.