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Mold Allergy

Definition


Disease: Mold Allergy Mold Allergy
Category: Allergies
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Disease Definition:

When a person breathes in mold spores, the immune system overreacts if he/she has a respiratory mold allergy. A cascade of reactions that lead to allergy symptoms is triggered by this reaction. Mold allergy can make the eyes of the patient itch, make him/her cough and cause other symptoms that make the patient miserable, just like other respiratory allergies. Mold allergy is linked to asthma and exposure causes restricted breathing and other airway symptoms in some people.

Reducing the exposure to the types of mold that cause the reaction is the best defense if one has a mold allergy. Medications can help keep mold allergy reactions under control, because it isn't always possible to avoid mold allergy triggers.  

Work Group:


Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes

Symptoms:

The same signs and symptoms that occur in other types of upper respiratory allergies are caused by mold allergy. The following can be included in mold allergy symptoms:

 

  • Cough and postnasal drip
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sinusitis, an inflammation of the sinuses
  • Itchy throat, eyes and nose
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes


Mold allergy symptoms range from mild to severe and they vary from one person to another. One may have symptoms that flare up only during certain times of the year, or he/she may have year-round symptoms. The patient may notice symptoms when being in outdoor or indoor spaces that have high concentrations of mold, or when the weather is damp.

The asthma symptoms may be triggered by exposure to mold spores if someone has a mold allergy and asthma. A severe asthma attack can be caused by exposure to certain molds in some people. The following are included in the signs and symptoms of asthma:

 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing


One should see the doctor when having watery eyes, stuffy nose, sneezing or other bothersome symptoms for longer than two weeks. To try to determine if the patient has allergies or whether the symptoms are caused by something else, the doctor will consider the symptoms of the patient and may order tests. Seeing a doctor who specializes in allergies may be needed if the patient has asthma or the doctor suspects so. Wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing are included in the symptoms of asthma.

Causes:

An overly sensitive immune system response triggers the symptoms of mold allergy, just like any allergy. The body recognizes airborne mold spores and develops allergy-causing antibodies to fight them when a person inhales them.

The person still produces antibodies that "remember" this invader, so that any later contact with the mold causes the immune system to react after the exposure has passed. The release of substances such as histamine that causes watery, itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose and other mold allergy symptoms is triggered by this reaction.

Both outside and inside, molds are very common. Allergies are caused by only certain type of mold, though there are many different kinds. It doesn't mean that a person will be allergic to another kind of mold if he/she is allergic to one type. Aspergillus, cladosporium penicillium, and alternaria are some of the most common molds that cause allergies.

When having a family history of allergies, a person is more likely to develop a mold allergy.
Doing the following things may worsen the symptoms of a person who is allergic to molds:  

Living in a house with poor ventilation:
Creating ideal conditions for mold growth, door seals and tight window may trap moisture indoors and prevent proper ventilation. The most vulnerable areas are damp areas such as basements, bathrooms and kitchens.

Working in an occupation that exposes one to mold:
Millwork, logging, furniture repair, baking, farming, dairy work, carpentry and winemaking are included in occupations where mold exposure may be high.

Living in a house with high humidity:
The exposure to mold at home may be increased if the indoor humidity is higher than 50%. If the conditions are right, mold can grow virtually anywhere, on soap-coated grout, in basements, behind walls in framing and other damp surfaces. Mold allergy symptoms may be triggered by exposure to high levels of household mold.

Working or living in a building that's been exposed to excess moisture:
Flood damage, leaky pipes, and water seepage during rainstorms. Nearly every building has some kind of excessive moisture at some point. Along with other common allergens including cockroaches and dust mites, this moisture can allow mold to flourish.

Complications

Complications:

Hay fever-type symptoms that aren’t serious but can make one miserable are involved in most allergic responses to mold. However, some allergic conditions caused by mold are more severe. The following are some of these conditions:

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis:
In people with cystic fibrosis or asthma, this fungal infection of the lungs can occur.
 
Mold induced asthma:
An asthma flare-up can be triggered in people allergic to mold by breathing in spores. In case of a severe asthma attack, a person should be sure of having an emergency plan in place in case he/she has a mold allergy as well as asthma.

Hypersensitivity pneumonitis:
When exposure to airborne particles such as mold spores causes the lungs to become inflamed, this rare condition occurs. Exposure to allergy-causing dust at work often triggers it.

Allergic fungal sinusitis:
When fungus lodges and grows in the sinuses, this condition occurs. To remove a tightly packed infection ("fungal ball"), surgery may be necessary.

OTHER PROBLEMS THAT MOLD CAN CAUSE:
The possibility that certain molds  (such as so-called "black mold") may cause a host of symptoms like fever, nausea, coughing, fatigue, rashes and headache, and even a condition that causes bleeding lungs in infants (acute idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage), is being focused on in recent news coverage. To determine whether molds inside buildings release airborne toxins that cause problems in otherwise healthy people, more research is needed. Some molds contain toxins that are poisonous when eaten.

It is clear that respiratory symptoms including sneezing, cough, throat irritation, nasal congestion and runny nose can be caused by working or living in a damp building, while it isn't clear whether mold is the culprit. Though there's some speculation that certain molds may cause these and other ill effects, it could be something else. For other health hazards that include the irritating chemicals released from building materials and furnishings, rodents and harmful bacteria, damp buildings are prime environments.

In people who have weakened immune system, nonallergic complications may be caused by exposure to high levels of mold. There is a risk of a mold infection if a person is on immune-suppressing drugs or chemotherapy when being exposed to mold, but a healthy person can handle mold exposure.

Treatments:

Taking steps to avoid exposure to the triggers is the best treatment for any allergy. However, molds can't be completely avoided as they are common. The symptoms can be eased by a number of medications, while there is no sure way to cure a mold allergy. The medications include:

Antihistamines:
With itching, sneezing and runny nose, these medications can help by blocking histamine, an inflammatory chemical released by the immune system during an allergic reaction, they work. Cetirizine and loratadine are two examples of over-the-counter antihistamines. On the other hand, clemastine and diphenhydramine are older antihistamines that make one drowsy, though they work as well. Only by prescription are fexofenadine and the nasal spray azelastine available.

Montelukast:
A prescription tablet taken to block the action of leukotrienes, which are immune system chemicals that cause allergy symptoms such as excess mucus, is montelukast. It’s effective in treating mold allergy, and in treating allergic asthma it has proved effective as well. However, this medication is not as effective as inhaled corticosteroids, which makes it like antihistamines. When mild asthma is present or when nasal sprays can't be tolerated, this medication can be used.

Decongestants:
In over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription tablets, nasal sprays and liquids, these medications are available. Oxymetazoline and phenylephrine are included in nasal sprays. The patient should avoid oral decongestants when having hypertension because they can raise blood pressure. Because decongestant nasal spray can cause rebound congestion when used over longer periods, it shouldn't be used for more than two or three days at a time.

Nasal corticosteroids:
To treat and prevent the inflammation caused by an upper respiratory mold allergy, these nasal sprays can help. They're often the first medication prescribed, and they are the most effective allergy medications for many people. Mometasone, beclomethasone and fluticasone propionate are some examples. The patient may not notice any improvement until after using the medications for a week or so, despite the fact that these medications can start working after a few days of treatment. For long-term use, these medications are generally safe.

Cromolyn sodium:
As an over-the-counter nasal spray that must be used several times a day, this medication is available. By preventing the release of histamine, it helps relieve mold allergy symptoms. When a person starts taking cromolyn sodium before signs and symptoms develop, it will be most effective.

The following are included in other treatments for mold allergy:

Nasal lavage:
Rinsing the nose with salt water may be recommended to help with irritating nasal symptoms. At relieving congestion, nasal lavage can be quite effective. So, the patient can either prepare his/her own saltwater solution using 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) of salt mixed with 2 cups (474 ml) of warm water, or he/she can use an over-the-counter nasal saline spray.

Immunotherapy:
Some allergies such as hay fever are virtually eliminated by immunotherapy, which consists of a series of allergy shots. But the bad news is that allergy shots are only moderately effective against mold allergy.

Prognosis:

Not Available

Expert's opinion

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