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.
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.
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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. There are many, many different varieties. Some types (like cladosporium, aspergillus and alternaria) are found in damp places inside the home.
People with an allergy to mould react to its spores.
Symptoms of mould allergy
Symptoms can be very similar to the type of reaction you might have to pollen in spring. So itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, a cough. Some people also experience itchy hives on the skin or eczema flares. People with 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.
Places to check 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 let’s water inside)
- 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
- papers in filing cabinets
- wooden furniture
- clothing and shoes
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.
Ways to manage a mould allergy
The best treatment for mould allergy is to avoid exposure to mould.
#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 or you prefer to use something more natural, you need to physically remove the mould spores or it will just grow back.
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 in help. Ours is an older model De’longhi which works really well (and is recognised in the Sensitive Choice program by the National Asthma Council of Australia). You can find the newer version for sale on Amazon: De’longhi Compact Dehumidifier*. 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.
#2 Seek advice about managing your 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 – What is allergy testing for hay fever really like?
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 speciliast about whether this is an option for you. You can read more about starting immunotherapy in our post Important questions to ask about starting allergy shots (immunotherapy).