Molds are found everywhere in nature. They accumulate primarily in the soil or in organic waste. Mold also finds its way indoors, mainly in the form of spores. They can have a negative impact on health. For example in the form of an allergy.
Learn more about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of mold allergy.
What causes a mold allergy?
In the case of a mold allergy, the body reacts allergically to the spores of certain types of mold. The immune system fights them more than necessary. There are a variety of molds that can trigger allergies.
The most common indoor molds include Penicillium and Aspergillus. Mold spreads indoors, especially in damp, warm and poorly ventilated rooms. For example, it can get stuck on wood, cardboard, wallpaper, carpets, in flower pots, in waste bins or behind tiled walls.
Cladosporium, Alternaria alternata and Fusarium are among the most common disease-relevant outdoor molds.
Mold can be found outdoors, for example in weathered leaves, cracked soil ( or freshly plowed fields) or in compost heaps. Especially warm and humid late summer weather favors high concentrations of mold spores outdoors.
Typical sources of mold growth in living spaces include:
- damp walls
- mattresses and upholstered furniture
- wooden panelling
- the brick wall
- damp places behind wallpaper
- potting soil from potted plants
- In addition, high humidity and warm temperatures between 20 and 25 °C encourage the formation of mold.
What are the symptoms of mold allergy?
Mold spores reach the respiratory tract and mucous membranes via the air. Sometimes they also get into the gastrointestinal tract through ingestion of food. The symptoms or diseases associated with a mold allergy include:
- Allergic inflammation of the conjunctiva.
- Allergic rhinitis. This can also develop into allergic asthma .
- Chronic inflammation of the paranasal sinuses
In addition, so-called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) can rarely occur as a result of inhaling Aspergillus spores. Aspergillosis is a group of diseases caused by Aspergillium fungi. This can lead to allergic asthma. As a result, other diseases such as pneumonia are possible.
Exogenous allergic alveolitis, which is also rare, can also be caused by mold in dust. It is an example of what are known as type III allergies , which are very rare overall . These molds can accumulate in things like air conditioners, humidifiers, damp hay, moldy cheese, or moldy compost soil. Among other things, the air sacs in the lungs, also called alveoli, become inflamed. The acute symptoms are more similar to a common cold than an allergy. This can lead to pulmonary fibrosis .
Indoor mold often triggers symptoms that occur throughout the year. On the other hand, mold outdoors often leads to seasonal complaints. Overall, the frequency of mold allergies outdoors is underestimated, while those indoors tend to be overestimated.
The symptoms of an allergy to mold can also be similar to poisoning or infection with mold. Medical clarification of the symptoms is important so that the disease can be treated in a targeted manner.
What are the risk factors for mold allergy?
Fungal spores are mainly absorbed through respiration. As a result, the symptoms usually manifest themselves in the respiratory tract. But a mold allergy can also manifest itself in the eyes.
If expired foods on which mold has already formed are eaten, gastrointestinal complaints occur. In addition, the skin may develop eczema or begin to itch.
- sniffle or sneeze
- itchy, red, or watery eyes
- itchy skin or eczema
- nausea or vomiting
- abdominal pain, flatulence or diarrhoea
The following factors can increase the risk of mold allergy:
- Known allergies
- Long-lasting cold or protracted inflammation of the paranasal sinuses
- weakened immune system
- cystic fibrosis
- Immediate allergies in the family (blood relatives)
Specific professional activity: eg in waste disposal, in the renovation and maintenance of buildings, in agriculture, in horticulture or in bakeries.
How is a mold allergy diagnosed?
To diagnose a mold allergy, the doctor first takes a medical history (anamnesis). She or he asks, for example, about symptoms, previous illnesses and medication. The doctor also inquires whether there are visible signs of mold in the apartment or other places. A physical examination is also carried out.
The so-called exposure avoidance is one way of finding out what triggers the symptoms. The affected person avoids places where there is or could be mold and observes the symptoms.
If the suspicion of an allergy or mold allergy is confirmed, the doctor arranges a prick test on the skin. If necessary, blood tests are also necessary. After taking a blood sample, the laboratory examines whether IgE antibodies are elevated. However, increased IgE antibodies do not always indicate an allergy. The doctor will explain the laboratory findings to you.
It is not always possible to determine the exact trigger of a mold allergy. However, the allergy tests also help to distinguish it from other allergies.
How is a mold allergy treated?
Due to the limited treatment options, it is particularly important for those affected to avoid the triggering mold. If there is mold in the living room or in the working environment, a corresponding remediation must be carried out. It is also important to prevent mold infestation. Especially between early summer and autumn, mold spores cause problems outdoors. You can find more information and tips on how to avoid mold growth and mildew on the environmental advice website and at www.allergieinformationsdienst.de .
The doctor will also prescribe medication to treat the symptoms. These include, for example, so-called antihistamines , medication for asthma or cortisone. Sometimes drugs are used that target the fungus. The medical community calls these antimycotics.
If the exact trigger of the allergy is known, hyposensitization is also possible for a few types of mold. This involves administering a very small dose of the allergy trigger at specific intervals. This is intended to teach the immune system to better tolerate the allergy trigger. The doctor will inform you whether this therapy could be an option for you.
How To Prevent Mold?
Avoiding mold spores borders on the impossible, as they are so common both indoors and out. Nevertheless, certain measures can be taken to prevent the formation of high concentrations of spores. Especially correct behavior in daily life can prevent allergic reactions.
- Ventilate living and office spaces often to avoid excessive humidity (both short and intensive (shock ventilation) and two-sided (creating drafts – cross ventilation)). The optimum humidity for indoor spaces is between 40 and 60 percent.
- Do not leave any kitchen waste and empty all waste bins regularly.
- Store fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator and eat foods as fresh as possible.
- Replace plant potting soil as soon as mold is identified.
- Have damp walls in your house or flat remediated by a professional.
- Have moldy walls and moisture stains behind cabinets, tiles and wooden panels removed by a professional.