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What is mould? Mould allergy

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Can’t stop sneezing? Congestion won’t go away? It could be hay fever or a winter cold. But if your symptoms last a few seasons or more, or worsen on a rainy day, it may be an allergy to mould.

Mould is a type of fungi that grows indoors and outdoors, spreading via spores that travel through the air. These spores can get into your nose and may cause an allergic reaction, or in severe cases, trigger an asthma attack.

Read on to learn more about the health risks of mould and how to identify if you are allergic.

Mould allergy symptoms

The symptoms of mould allergies are very similar to those of the common cold and other airborne allergies such as hay fever. This can make it tricky to identify the cause of your discomfort.

Common mould allergy symptoms include:

Mould allergies aren’t dangerous for most people but they can be unpleasant and occur year-round. This is particularly the case for indoor moulds found in your home or office. If you have any of the above symptoms outside of the typical hay fever season, it could be an indoor mould allergy.

Common types of moulds

There are a handful of common moulds which can be found both outdoors and inside. These include:

  • Penicillium Notatum - typically found in soils, decaying leaves and hay, or on stale bread or fruits in the home
  • Aspergillus Fumigatus - found in soils, bird droppings, rotting vegetables and leaves, this mould is most commonly associated with asthma
  • Alternaria Alternata - an outside mould found in rotten wood, compost and soil
  • Trichophyton Rubrum and Pityrosporum Orbicculare - fungi found within eczema on the skin

The most common cause of mould allergy is Cladosporium Herbarum. This mould is mostly airborne with higher levels during spring and late summer. Indoors you’ll find it on dirty surfaces such as window frames and refrigerators - that’s one reason to keep them clean!

Can mould and damp impact my health even if I do not have an allergy?

If you aren’t allergic to mould, you might not ever experience any symptoms. However exposure to damp and mouldy environments can increase your chances of respiratory problems and infections. This could include a higher likelihood of asthmatic symptoms such as coughing and wheezing.

Who is at risk of a mould allergy?

Anyone can develop a mould allergy, however some people are more sensitive than others. This includes elderly people, those with allergies and asthma, and people with a weakened immune system.

Babies and children should also be kept away from mould and damp. Early exposure could potentially increase their chances of developing asthma or long term allergies.

You are also more likely to have symptoms if you live or work in an environment with high humidity, poor ventilation or that has been exposed to excessive moisture such as flooding or a leak in the home.

Health risks of mould

Most reactions to mould allergies aren’t serious and will be similar to that of hay fever or a sinus infection. However in some cases, mould can lead to more severe symptoms.

Breathing in mould spores can sometimes trigger asthma. This could happen immediately or worsen symptoms over time so it’s important to have medication prepared in case of an asthma attack.

Rarely, mould allergies can lead to a more serious condition called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. Similar to asthma, symptoms include wheezing and coughing, and typically occur in people with respiratory conditions such as cystic fibrosis.

Mould spores can also lead to inflammation of the lungs, known as hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This is a rare immune system disorder which is triggered by an allergic reaction to inhaled dust and substances.

Treatment for mould allergy

The good news is that symptoms of mould allergy are easy to relieve. A number of allergy relief treatments such as nasal sprays and antihistamines may help to reduce congestion, sneezing and watery eyes. 

If you’re not sure which remedies will be best for you, speak to a member of our healthcare team in store. They’ll be able to answer any questions about over the counter medicines and how to manage your symptoms.

How to prevent mould allergy

  • Wear a face mask in environments where mould may be present.
  • Avoid gardening activities such as cutting grass, raking leaves and composting.
  • Don’t enter damp buildings or areas that store hay or grain.
  • Limit your time outside during damp weather or in areas with damp conditions such as woodland.
  • Prevent mould from growing in your home using the below recommendations.

Avoiding mould indoors

  • Reduce moisture in the home by drying clothes outside, using a ventilator and running extractor fans. Close your door whilst cooking or showering to avoid moist air travelling through your home.
  • Fix leaks as soon as possible to stop mould growing on walls, and thoroughly clean damp with bleach and anti-fungal wash.
  • Control humidity levels by using a dehumidifier or air conditioner, particularly during humid months.
  • Let fresh air circulate throughout your home to avoid mould spores from settling on surfaces. Open windows in bathrooms and kitchens, and leave gaps between your furniture and the walls.
  • Keep your home warm with insulation and central heating to avoid condensation which can cause mould and damp. Double glazing and draught excluders can help to insulate windows and doors.
  • Clean your house regularly including garbage bins, your refrigerator and washing machine.
  • Limit your number of house plants and change the soil regularly as it can easily grow mould.
  • Have a clear out and get rid of old books, magazines, foam pillows or mattresses that could harvest mould.

Allergies caused by mould can be unpleasant but there are plenty of ways to avoid damp in the home and relieve sniffles and irritation. Discover more about indoor allergies and find an allergy treatment online to soothe your symptoms today.