What are moulds(1,2)?
Moulds are tiny fungi whose spores float through the air. They like damp environments and need four things to grow: food, air, appropriate temperature and water.
Mould spores are not visible to the naked eye, but by the time mould is visible on an object, literally millions of spores are present. Mould has both an urban and rural presence, and an indoor and outdoor presence.
Where are moulds commonly found(3)?
Moulds favour damp, musty conditions; therefore piles of rotting leaves, grass cuttings, compost heaps, and garden sheds are prime environments for mould growth. Indoor moulds can be found on food that is getting spoilt, such as the black and white fur that is found on cheese, bread, fruit and vegetables.
The refrigerator is a key mould environment if not adequately cleaned and dried, particularly around the seal. Other types of mould can be found on window frames, especially when there is a lot of condensation on the windows, under wallpaper and on the soil of houseplants. Likewise, the damp environment caused by tumble dryers and baths and showers make the kitchen and bathroom danger zones.
Moulds release spores and these spores may cause allergic reactions in people.
What is mould allergy(1)?
If you have allergy symptoms year-round - or if they get worse in damp weather - you may be allergic to mould. Moulds live everywhere, and disturbing a mould source can disperse the spores into the air.
When is it not an allergy(4)?
Although a mould allergy is the most common problem caused by exposure to mould, mould can cause illness without an allergic reaction. Mould can also cause infections or irritant and toxic reactions. Infections caused by mould can lead to a variety of problems from flu-like symptoms to skin infections and even pneumonia.
An irritant reaction is caused when substances from moulds called volatile organic compounds irritate the mucous membranes in the body. Symptoms of an irritant reaction are similar to an allergy and include eye irritation, runny nose, cough, hoarseness, headache and skin irritation.
Which moulds cause allergy(1,2)?
There are hundreds of types of moulds, but not all of them are responsible for causing allergy symptoms. The most common allergy-causing moulds include Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporium and Penicillium.
The two common moulds seen in India are:
1. Alternaria Alternata
is found in soils, foodstuffs and textiles. Black spots on tomatoes and other foods are attributed to this mould. This is generally considered to be an outside mould and appears when conditions are warm.
2. Aspergillus Fumigatus
is found in soils, leaf and plant litter, decaying vegetables and roots, bird droppings, tobacco and stored sweet potatoes. This mould is associated with asthma, also with bronchitis and conditions such as Farmer’s lung.
What are the risk factors to develop mould allergy(3)?
A number of factors can make you more likely to develop a mould allergy, or worsen your existing mould allergy symptoms, including:
What are the symptoms(4)?
The symptoms of mould allergy are very similar to the symptoms of other allergies
Mould allergy symptoms can include:
Some people with mould allergies may have allergy symptoms the entire summer because of outdoor moulds or year-round if symptoms are due to indoor moulds.
Mould spores can deposit on the lining of the nose and cause hay fever symptoms. They also can reach the lungs, to cause asthma or another serious illness called allergic bronchopulmonaryaspergillosis.
Sometimes the reaction is immediate, and sometimes the reaction is delayed. Symptoms often worsen in a damp or mouldy room such as a basement; this may suggest mould allergy.
How is mould allergy diagnosed(1)?
To diagnose an allergy to mould or fungi, the doctor will take a complete medical history. If mould allergy is suspected, the doctor often will do skin tests.
A skin prick test can find out whether you have antibodies that react to a specific allergen.
Skin prick test
The skin prick test involves:
Extracts of different types of fungi will be used to scratch or prick the skin. If there is no reaction, allergy is not suggested. In some people with allergy, irritation alone can cause a reaction. Therefore the doctor uses the patient’s medical history, the skin testing results, and the physical examination combined to diagnose mould allergy.
How can you avoid moulds(1)?
Moulds are prevalent throughout our environment.
The following measures will help minimise contact with moulds.
What is the treatment for mould allergy(1)?
Antihistamines, decongestants, corticosteroid nasal sprays can be useful. If these do not work your doctor may suggest allergen immunotherapy.
Allergen immunotherapy could provide long lasting benefit. You can “train” your immune system not to react exaggerated to an allergen anymore. This is done through a series of allergy shots called allergen immunotherapy. One to two weekly shots expose you to very small doses of the allergen, that causes an allergic reaction. The dose is gradually increased, usually during a three-to six-months period. Maintenance shots are needed every four weeks for three to five years. allergen immunotherapy is usually used when other treatments like antisymptomatic medication are not satisfactory.