Do you have a mould allergy? Or think you might? If you have allergy symptoms all year round it might be a sign that you allergic to something in your home environment, like house dust mites or mould. For people with a mould allergy, it’s really important to avoid exposure to mould around the home. Find out more about places mould may be hiding and how to reduce your exposure.
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What is mould?
Mould (or mold as our US friends spell it) is a type of fungi. Yes, it’s related to mushrooms. Mould is naturally ocurirng in the environment and has an important role to play in nature.
There are many, many different varieties of mould. Some types (like cladosporium, aspergillus and alternaria) are found in damp places inside the home.
Mould reproduces by releasing tiny spores into the air. People with an allergy to mould react to its spores.
Symptoms of mould allergy
We have one family member with confirmed allergy to mould. Recently a doctor told me I should be tested too, as my hay fever symptoms are no longer just during spring and summer. I’m suffering all year round with a runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes.
Symptoms of mould allergy can be very similar to the type of reaction you might have to pollen in spring. This includes itchy eyes, runny or congested nose, sneezing or a cough. Some people also experience itchy hives on the skin or eczema flares. People who also have asthma may have respiratory symptoms as well.
Common – and unexpected – places you might find mould at home
Mould loves to grow where it is damp, warm and dark. Anywhere where there is moisture and without good ventilation.
Places to check for mould include:
- bathrooms (the obvious places like the shower, bath, tile grout and silicon seals. exhaust fans and the ceiling)
- tooth brush holder
- bath toys (especially if they have a hole that lets water inside)
- window glass and window frames (especially where condensation forms in winter)
- around the plug in kitchen and bathroom sinks
- under the sink
- fridge (including the door seals)
- drink bottle spouts and lids (including children’s sippy cups)
- air-conditioning units or air vents
- pet bedding and bowls
- laundries (including the seals on the washing machine)
- indoor plants and pots, including saucers where water pools
- papers in filing cabinets
- wooden furniture
- clothing and shoes (especially in poorly ventilated cupboards or robes).
If you have had water leaking from pipes or in any part of your home, mould could be growing in the ceiling, the walls, behind the wallpaper or under the carpet or flooring. You may not even know it is there.
Ways to manage a mould allergy
The best treatment for mould allergy is to avoid exposure to mould and its spores. As they say, preventaion is better than cure. Removing dampness and increasing ventilation will help reduce moist areas where mould thrives.
#1 Removing and preventing mould
If you find mould it needs to be removed quickly. And not just by bleaching the spores white. Whether you use a shop bought product like Exit Mould spray, or you prefer to use something more natural like clove oil and water, you need to physically remove the mould spores or it will just grow back. In other words, don’t just bleach the mould, scrub it off too.
You should get a professional in to assess your home if you have major problems with leaking, water damage or damp walls.
Otherwise, there are lots of practical ways to prevent mould from building up:
- keep up with roof and gutter maintenance to prevent leaks
- fix any plumbing issues quickly
- use exhaust fans in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry
- regularly clean and dry bath toys (and preferably don’t use ones with holes to allow water inside)
- open windows where possible for ventilation
- store belongings in dry and well-ventilated places
Some people use a dehumidifier or moisture absorber products to help lower moisture levels inside the home. We get a lot of condensation in our bedroom in winter and use a dehumidifier to help. Ours is a 24 litre capacity De’longhi which works really well (and is recognised in the Sensitive Choice program by the National Asthma Council of Australia). The newer versions like the De’longhi multipurpose dehumidifier include wifi programming, which is really handy
We also use Damp Rid or Hippo moisture absorber containers in the wardrobe and book shelves to help keep moisture levels down near our clothes and books. Vacplus Moisture Absorber Boxes are another moisture trapping product that’s perfect for using in closets or anywhere you need to keep humidity levels down.
Breville also has a nifty little product for removing moisture, a the Re-Fresha™ Mini Dehumidifier. This is a rechargeable moisture absorber can be used over and over again to reduce moisture in your home. The Re-Fresha Kit comes with a mini dehumidifier and a drying base. The dehumidifier contains moisture absorbing beads that change colour when full of moisture. Simply place the unit onto the drying base to dry it out ready to use again. You can buy extra units to charge on the same base too.
#2 Seek advice about managing mould allergy symptoms
You don’t have to put up with year round allergy symptoms.
If you think you might be affected by a mould allergy, you should speak to your doctor and ask for a referral to an allergy specialist. They can help by properly diagnosing your allergy and recommending treatments.
You can read a first hand account of allergy testing for environmental allergens in our post about allergy testing for hay fever.
At the moment, I manage my symptoms with antihistamines and a nasal spray. And I need to clean more!
If you have a severe mould allergy, and are unable to avoid being exposed to your trigger, you may also be able to have immunotherapy (desensitisation) to reduce your symptoms. Again, talk to your allergy specialist about whether this is an option for you. You can read more about starting immunotherapy in our post about important questions to ask about starting allergy shots (immunotherapy).
More about respiratory and environmental allergies
Many people with mould allergies also have house dust mite allergies. If that’s you, make sure to see our practical tips for managing dust mite allergies. For outdoor respiratory allergies, we have some tips for managing pollen exposure too.
Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia also has some useful resources on environmental allergens.
And don’t forget to subscribe for more ways to make living with allergies easier.