When it comes to allergies and asthma, it can be difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins—and where they overlap. For example, the symptoms of asthma and the symptoms of a mold allergy can be very similar. In addition, a mold allergy can contribute to an asthma attack. Here is some helpful information on how mold can trigger asthma symptoms and what you can do to prevent it.
What is a mold allergy?
Molds are microscopic organisms called fungi, and they are found both indoors and outdoors. Molds reproduce through spores, which are spread by water, air, or insects. A mold allergy is actually an allergy to mold spores.
Common symptoms of a mold allergy include:
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Nasal and sinus congestion
- Shortness of breath
- Watery or burning eyes
- Irritation of the nose, throat, or skin
What is the connection between asthma and mold allergies?
Many people with asthma also have mold allergies, which can trigger asthma attacks or worsen asthma symptoms. Doctors are not quite sure why mold spores are so harmful to people with asthma. Some researchers believe that because mold spores are so small, they more easily pass through to the lower airways, where they can trigger an asthma attack. Others theorize that mold spores may interact with other allergens and environmental air pollution, increasing the asthma risk from those substances. Furthermore, some people have an irritant response not only to mold spores but to some of the volatile chemicals that molds release into the air.
How to limit mold exposure
The best way to prevent symptoms of a mold allergy or triggering an asthma attack due to mold allergies is to avoid mold whenever possible. Since mold grows both indoors and outdoors, you cannot entirely rid your environment of mold. However, you can take steps to limit your exposure.
Indoor mold can grow on any organic surface and is often found in damp, dark places like:
- Garbage containers
- Washing machines and clothes dryers
- Under-sink cabinets
- Shower stalls and shower curtains
- House plants
- Damp window moldings and sills
- Dusty and musty old magazines, newspapers, or books
To prevent mold growth indoors, eliminate the conditions that molds need to grow: moisture, darkness, and poor ventilation. Carpets or drywall with mold should be removed. If materials cannot be removed, clean them with household bleach or a solution of 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, and 1 quart of water. After cleaning, a dehumidifier can help to prevent mold regrowth.
Outdoor mold typically grows in damp, dark places. It often grows under fallen leaves, in rotting wood, and in rotting vegetation in gardens. You can limit your exposure to outdoor mold by keeping your windows closed and avoiding outdoor activities when outdoor mold levels are high. Airborne molds often reach peak levels on dry, windy days when breezes kick up mold spores into the air.
How to treat mold allergies
If you know you are going to be around mold, you may want to wear a mask over your mouth and nose to prevent exposure. You can also rinse your nose with a saline spray or take a shower if you know you have been exposed to mold.
If you have an allergy to molds, your allergist may recommend over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants to relieve your symptoms. Immunotherapy may also be an option to help your body become less reactive to molds, which can be especially helpful if your mold allergy triggers asthma attacks.
For more information about mold allergies and how mold can impact asthma, we invite you to contact us today at West River ENT & Allergy.