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Mold Allergies: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Outline: Information regarding mold allergy including causes, prevention, symptoms and treatment.

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If someone has a mold allergy, their immune system overreacts when they breathe in mold spores, triggering a number of reactions that lead to allergic symptoms. As with other allergies, a mold allergy might make a person cough, make their eyes itch, as well as causing additional symptoms that make them miserable. In some people, mold allergy is linked to asthma and exposure causes restricted breathing and other airway symptoms.

Mold, or mould, is defined as a fungus that grows in the form of multicellular filaments called hyphae, some types of mold are known as mildew. Molds are considered to be microbes and do not form a specific taxonomic or phylogenetic grouping. When mold spores are present in large quantities, they can present a health hazard to humans, potentially causing allergic reactions and respiratory problems. People with mold allergies may have a reaction if exposed to too much of the fungus. If you have a mold allergy, your immune system overreacts when you breathe in mold spores. This triggers a cascade of reactions that lead to allergic symptoms. Like other allergies, a mold allergy can make you cough, make your eyes itch and cause other symptoms.

If you experience a mold allergy, the best defense is to cut your exposure to the types of mold that cause your symptoms. While it is not always possible to avoid mold allergy triggers, medications might help to keep mold allergy symptoms under control.

Symptoms of Mold Allergies

Mold allergy causes the same signs and symptoms that happen in other types of upper respiratory allergies. Mold allergy symptoms might include the following:

Mold allergy symptoms differ among people and range from mild to severe. You might have symptoms year-round, or symptoms which flare up only during certain times of the year. You may notice symptoms when the weather is damp, or when you are outside or inside spaces with high concentrations of mold.

If you have asthma or a mold allergy, the symptoms of asthma might be triggered by exposure to mold spores. In some people, exposure to certain molds may cause a severe asthma attack. Signs and symptoms of asthma include the following:

Causes of Mold Allergies

Like any allergy, mold allergy symptoms are triggered by an overly sensitive immune system response. When a person inhales tiny, airborne mold spores, their body recognizes them as foreign invaders and develops allergy-causing antibodies to fight them.

After the exposure has passed, a person will still produce antibodies that remember the invader so any later contact with mold causes the person's immune system to react. The reaction triggers the release of substances such as histamine which cause:

Molds are very common - both inside and outside. There are many types of molds, yet only certain kinds of mold cause allergies. Being allergic to one type of mold does not necessarily mean a person will be allergic to another type. Some of the most common molds that cause allergies include:

Although a mold allergy is the most common issue caused by mold exposure, mold may cause illness without an allergic reaction. Mold can also cause irritant and toxic reactions or infections. Infections caused by mold might lead to a number of issues from skin infections, flu-like symptoms and pneumonia. An irritant reaction is caused when substances from molds called, 'volatile organic compounds,' irritate a person's mucus membranes. Symptoms of an irritant reaction are similar to an allergy and include:

Risk Factors for Mold Allergies

Several factors may make a person more likely to develop a mold allergy, or worsen their existing mold allergy symptoms. Some of these factors include the following:

Complications of Mold Allergies

The majority of allergic responses to mold involve hay fever-type symptoms that might make a person miserable, yet are not serious. Certain allergic conditions caused by mold are; however, more severe. More serious conditions associated with mold exposure may include:

Other than allergens, mold might pose additional health risks in people who are susceptible. For example; mold might cause infections of a person's mucus membranes or skin. In general; however, mold does not cause systemic infections except for those with impaired immune systems – such as people with HIV/AIDS, or who are taking immunosuppressant medication. Exposure to mold may also irritate a person's skin, eyes, throat and nose. Other potential mold reactions are the subject of continuing research.

Mold Allergies, Tests and Diagnosis

A doctor will want to know a person's signs and symptoms and might want to conduct a physical examination in order to identify or exclude other medical issues. A doctor may also recommend one or more blood or skin tests to find out if the person has an allergy that can be identified. The tests include the following:

Treating Mold Allergies

The best treatment for any allergy is to take steps to avoid exposure to triggers. Molds are common; however, and a person cannot avoid them entirely. While there is no certain way to cure a mold allergy, several medications might ease someone's symptoms. The medications may include the following:

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