If you have an allergy that lasts almost all year round, you may be suffering from a sensitivity to mold spores. Molds can grow anywhere. If a mold source is disturbed, mold spores can disperse. The allergens produced by molds are found in mold spores, and inhaling these airborne spores can cause the allergic reactions.
What is a mold spore?
Mold spores are seeds of molds and fungi. Outdoor mold spores grow in moist shady areas, such as soil, decaying leaves, compost piles, and rotting wood. Mold spore counts are higher when it rains or when the weather is very humid. They would also grow during harvest season, around the barn and in stacks of hay.
Unlike pollens, the dispersal of outdoor mold spores is not as seasonal. Some are released in dry, windy conditions, while other spores are released in high humidity when there is fog and dew. Actually, molds disperse spores anywhere that’s damp and humid, at any time of the year, and individuals who are exposed to such damp environments experience allergic reactions that last for quite a long time.
What causes a mold spore allergy?
Since they are everywhere, they are not easy to avoid. Inhaling mold spores causes allergies. You are exposed if you walk through moist uncut fields, work on a compost pile or dry soil, cut grass and rake leaves.
There are many types of outdoor mold spores but only a few are allergenic. The most commonly found molds are Alternaria and Cladosporium (Hormodendrum). Other allergenic outdoor molds include Helminthosporium, Epicoccum, Fusarium, Mucor, and Rhizopus are the major culprits. These mold spores can be recognized under a microscope.
What are the symptoms?
Outdoor mold spore allergies are triggered by inhaling the spores. The primary symptom is allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, wherein the mucous membranes of the nose and sinus areas are inflamed. There is sneezing, nasal discharge, nasal congestion and dry, scaling skin. The eyes, however, are rarely affected, unlike with pollen allergies, conjunctivitis may develop. If the inhaled mold spores reach the lungs, the individual might develop asthma. Symptoms may last the entire year depending on the severity of the allergy.
Sometimes, eating foods such as cheeses processed with fungi, mushrooms, dried fruits, and foods that contain yeast, soy sauce, or vinegar can cross-react with the mold spores and worsen the symptoms.
People are more likely to have a mold spore allergy if any family member is allergic to other airborne substances such as pollen and animal dander. Farmers, dairymen, loggers, mill workers, carpenters and woodworkers, gardeners, wine makers, and furniture builders, and those whose job requires them to be exposed to molds each day have a higher risk of developing allergies.
How can a mold spore allergy be prevented?
You cannot cure a mold spore allergy, but there are ways to prevent allergic reactions by reducing your exposure to the allergens.
When outdoors, avoid walking through decaying vegetation, compost piles, and fallen leaves because you might inhale mold spores. Avoid doing yard work, such as lawn mowing and raking leaves on a hot, humid day. Avoid farms, especially during harvest time when mold spores could be growing around the barn or under a stack of hay. And wear a face mask outdoors if possible.
This has been quite a year for mold allergy sufferers as the rain, especially late afternoon and evening rain, is making the mold spores grow, and this in turn, kicks in the mold allergies.
If you are susceptible to mold allergies, you may want to find another home for your outdoor plants during the winter months (even the garage if you are in a milder climate). Plants can harbor mold spores and unless you consistently remove dead and drying leaves, the plant may aggravate your allergies. Others argue that plants are good for the air in cleansing and purifying it, so it mostly depends on your specific allergies.
I’ve noticed that my daughter has had those allergy eyes for the past few days and even an itchy mouth she said. At first I thought it was dust as she just cleaned out her closet, but that was a few days ago, and she still has the dark eyes. We had a lawn service here the other day, and he noticed a brown spot of grass. This, he told me, was due to fungus caused by excess water, though the rest of the yard is dry. Sometimes hard to make sense of, but the fungus and mold is bad this year. I think that is what is hitting my daughter.
It may not be just rain that is making the mold grow, but high humidity levels as well, and this year we are seeing record high humidity. I know in the south if you just walk outside your hair gets big and sweat runs down your back, to me, that is enough to tell me the humidity is high!
I know it is important to treat a mold allergy as any other, avoidance is best. But that is not always possible. However, I do try to keep my daughter inside with air conditioning a lot right now, and I try to keep the humidity in the house low. Using central air conditioning with a HEPA filter will help trap the spores before they get in the air.
My daughter has taken more than her fair share of benadryl in the last week or so, and with school starting next week, I think we may try to squeeze in a visit to our alternative practitioner. I hate to send her off to middle school with those dark circles under her eyes and sneezing the day away. And I think it is just getting hotter, here, we’ve got a good ten weeks or so until our heat breaks.