The Allergen Lurking in Your House: Mold Allergy Symptoms

Written by Stephanie Faris | Published on November 26, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on November 26, 2014

Mold Allergy Symptoms

Do your allergies seem to get worse when it rains? If so, you may be suffering from a mold allergy. Mold allergies are generally not life threatening. But they can impact your ability to lead a productive, comfortable daily life. Here are a few tips to help you spot mold allergies.

The primary allergen in mold is the mold spore. Because those spores can eventually make their way to the air, they also make their way to your nose. This triggers an allergic reaction. This mold has been linked to allergies and asthma.

Mold grows in moisture, either indoors or outdoors. While the mold spores constantly floating in the air can trigger reactions, the problem worsens when those spores attach to a wet surface and mold begins to grow. You may have mold growing inside your house and not know it. This could be due to an unknown leak, moisture buildup in a basement, or damp areas under carpet that have been left unchecked.  

Because mold grows year-round, mold allergies generally aren’t seasonal like other allergies. Those who are allergic to mold can experience symptoms any time, especially if they live in an area that tends to get rain fairly often.

Basic Symptoms of Mold Allergies

If you’re allergic to mold, you’ll likely experience histamine reactions similar to those from other types of airborne allergies. Those symptoms include:

  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • congestion
  • watery and itchy eyes
  • postnasal drip

You may initially mistake your mold allergies for a cold or sinus infection, since the symptoms can mirror each other. If your allergies are compounded by asthma, you may notice your asthma symptoms worsening when you’re exposed to mold. Symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing, and chest tightness. You also may experience wheezing and other signs of an asthma attack.

Mold Allergies in Children

If your children are the only ones in the family suffering histamine-related allergy symptoms, it may not be related to mold in your home. Some school buildings have unchecked mold, which can result in increased attacks while at school. But it could also be that your child has a sensitivity to mold, whereas no one else in the family does.

Since some children spend time playing outside in areas parents might not venture, mold may be prevalent in the outdoor air. Asthmatic children may experience more attacks while playing outside for this reason. You may note more symptoms in the summertime months when your children are playing outside more often.

Is Mold Toxic?

You may hear many myths about the toxicity of mold. For example, that inhaling mold can cause permanent damage. The truth is that it would be very difficult for someone to inhale enough mold to do that kind of damage. If you aren’t sensitive to mold, you may never even experience a reaction.

Furthermore, the mold that asthma has been associated with is generally found outdoors, not indoors. So that leaky window at work isn’t likely to cause you to develop asthma. Outdoor mold will only exacerbate symptoms for people who have asthma, and not cause asthma itself. However, a serious condition called hypersensitivity pneumonitis is rare, but attributed to prolonged mold inhalation in patients who are sensitive.

Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis

Hypersensitivity pneumonitis can develop over time in patients who are sensitive to mold spores in the air. One of the most common types of hypersensitivity pneumonitis is known as “farmer’s lung.” Farmer’s lung is a serious allergic reaction to mold found in hay and other types of crop material. Because farmer’s lung is so often undiagnosed, it can cause permanent damage in the form of scar tissue on the lung. This scar tissue, called fibrosis, can worsen until the patient begins to have trouble doing simple tasks.

Once farmer’s lung progresses to a more chronic form, symptoms may become more severe than simple histamine reactions. Farmer’s lung patients may experience:

  • fever
  • chills
  • blood-streaked sputum
  • muscular pain

Those who work around potentially moldy crop materials on a regular basis should watch for early histamine reactions and seek treatment if they suspect farmer’s lung may be developing.

While mold exposure is generally not deadly, increased exposure can make symptoms worse. Mold allergies are progressive. Over time the attacks become more severe. The key is to prevent moisture from building up by repairing any leaks in your home.

If you notice a water build-up in any part of your home, stop the leak immediately. When working in situations where outdoor mold may be present, wearing a face mask can drastically reduce your exposure to the allergen. Masks that will protect your respiratory system from being affected by mold spore exposure are available.

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