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Mold Allergy Facts

Mold allergy can be seasonal, but mold spores are carried in the air and can also be present all year long.

Mold is most common indoors in damp locations such as swamp coolers, basements, bathrooms, or washrooms. Fabrics, rugs, stuffed animals, books, or wallpaper can harbor mold spores if they are frequently in contact with water or kept in a damp place. Outdoors, mold lives in the soil, on compost, and on damp vegetation. An allergy to airborne particles most commonly leads to allergic rhinitis (symptoms in the eyes, nose, and throat).

 

What Allergy Treatments Are Available?

 Allergy treatment usually starts with avoiding the substances (allergens) that cause your signs and symptoms. If you can minimize your exposure to allergens — which may include everything from pollen, mold, pet dander and dust mites to certain foods, drugs and chemicals — you'll have less sneezing, coughing and itching. But because you can't always avoid everything that triggers your allergies, your doctor may prescribe allergy medication.

The right medication or combination of medications depends on the allergy symptoms you have. Allergy medications are available in pill, liquid, nasal spray, eye drop and topical forms, some over-the-counter and others by prescription only. The main types of allergy medications are: Corticosteroids: These medications help prevent and treat the inflammation associated with allergic conditions. Antihistamines: These drugs block histamine, an inflammatory chemical released by your immune system during an allergic reaction. Decongestants: These drugs relieve nasal and sinus congestion. Leukotriene modifiers: These medications block the effects of leukotrienes, inflammatory chemicals released by your immune system during an allergic reaction. And finally, Mast cell stabilizers: These preparations prevent the release of histamine.

 Looking for an herbal remedy for your allergies? Some research suggests that the herbal supplement butterbur may relieve allergy symptoms. What is butterbur? Butterbur is a large-leafed, shrub-like plant native to Europe. Extracts from the roots, leaves and stem of the butterbur plant have been used to treat migraine headaches, stomach ulcers, infections and coughs, as well as allergies and asthma. Butterbur has anti-inflammatory effects that decrease histamine and leukotrienes. However, butterbur also contains substances that can be toxic to your liver and may cause cancer. Some butterbur products are processed to reduce the amount of these toxins.

 Butterbur is most commonly taken as tablets. It's also available in teas, extracts, and capsules containing raw herbs. You can buy butterbur as a tablet or as part of a product that contains a mixture of herbs. While results of studies on butterbur seem positive, the quality of some studies has been a matter of some debate. Other clinical studies have shown no benefit from taking butterbur for allergies. No studies have been done to determine the long-term safety and effectiveness of butterbur.

 

There are thousands of types of molds in the fungus family. Molds are made of many cells that grow as branching threads called hyphae. Although they can probably cause allergic reactions, only a small number of molds are widely recognized offenders.

The seeds or reproductive pieces of fungi are called spores. Spores differ in size, shape, and color among types of mold. Each spore that germinates can give rise to new mold growth, which in turn can produce millions of spores.

What is mold allergy? When inhaled, tiny fungal spores, or sometimes pieces of fungi, may cause allergic rhinitis. Because they are so small, mold spores also can reach the lungs. In a small number of people, symptoms of mold allergy may be brought on or worsened by eating certain foods such as cheeses processed with fungi. Occasionally, mushrooms, dried fruits, and foods containing yeast, soy sauce, or vinegar will produce allergy symptom.

It is common for people to get mold allergy if they or other family members are allergic to substances such as pollen or animal dander. People may become allergic to only mold or fungi, or they may also have problems with dust mites, pollens and other spores. If you are allergic to only fungi, it is unlikely that you would be bothered by all fungi. The different types of fungi spores have only limited similarities. People in some occupations have more exposure to mold and are at greater risk of developing allergies. Farmers, dairymen, loggers, bakers, mill workers, carpenters, greenhouse employees, wine makers and furniture repairers are at increased risk.