Allergy Causes & Symptoms

Think You're Allergic to Mold? Here's What You Should Know

A close-up view of mold.

All allergies are frustrating, but mold allergies really take things to a new level.

Why? Well, because mold thrives in a bunch of different conditions (both indoors and outdoors), and you’ll never wipe it out entirely.

Does that mean you need to accept your constant sniffling, sneezing, and itching as a way of life? Not exactly. Let’s talk about how to tell if you have a mold allergy—and more importantly, what you can do about it.

What are the signs you’re allergic to mold?

So, you want to figure out if you have a mold allergy. Unfortunately, it’s not always crystal clear, since mold allergy symptoms mirror the signs of many types of allergic reactions. Typical symptoms include:

  • itchy eyes, nose, and throat
  • sneezing
  • stuffy or runny nose
  • watery eyes

Sounds just like seasonal allergies, doesn’t it? So, if it’s not the symptoms that clue you in, how can you tell if you’re dealing with a mold allergy—or something else?

Consider timing

The biggest thing to pay attention to is timing. With seasonal allergies, your allergy symptoms will flare up during specific points in the year. When pollen counts are high (whether it’s grass pollen, tree pollen, or ragweed pollen), your allergies kick into high gear.

However, most mold allergies are perennial allergies, meaning they happen all year long. If you’re battling the above symptoms on a routine basis, that’s what you’re likely dealing with.

Consider location

It’s important to note that mold isn’t the only perennial allergy trigger. Other allergens like pet dander and dust mites can trigger allergic rhinitis (that’s a fancy term for allergies) too.

Pay attention to where your allergy symptoms creep up. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains, mold thrives in places with a lot of moisture—whether that’s indoors or outdoors.

So, if you notice that you’re sniffling and sneezing after spending some time in a damp basement or raking a big pile of wet leaves, that’s a red flag that you’re dealing with a mold allergy.

How to test for mold allergies

These clues can all help, but ultimately there’s only one way to know for certain if you have a mold allergy: Visit a healthcare provider for the appropriate tests. The Mayo Clinic explains that one of two tests will be performed:

  • Skin prick test: A small, diluted amount of your suspected allergen will be injected into your skin. If you develop a hive at that location, you’re allergic to that substance.
  • Blood test: This measures your immune system’s response to mold by looking for specific antibodies in your bloodstream.

How do you treat mold allergies?

You’ve figured it out by tracking your symptoms or even getting a test—you’re allergic to mold. Now what?

Mold is way more prevalent than you might think. In fact, out of the 21.8 million people who have asthma in the United States, experts estimate that about 4.6 million cases are because of mold exposure in the home.

Don’t admit defeat quite yet. There are a few things you can try to keep your mold allergy symptoms at bay.

Find the right treatment plan

For starters, a number of medications can help you get some relief. Options include:

  • Antihistamines: Histamine is the chemical in your body that causes those undesirable symptoms. Antihistamines are available in numerous different forms, including tablets, capsules, liquids, syrups, creams, lotions, gels, eyedrops, and nasal sprays. They block the effect of histamine, so you can avoid all of that sniffling and scratching.
  • Nasal steroids: A steroid nasal spray delivers relief right to the source to ease your nasal congestion and reduce inflammation in your sinus passages.
  • Allergy shots: If your symptoms are really severe, you might want to opt for a series of allergy shots (known as immunotherapy). Take note that they’re only used for certain types of mold allergies.

Not sure what you need? We can help point you toward a personal, allergist-picked Pack. Simply tell us about the symptoms and seasons that bother you most, along with a little about your experience, and we'll get you the personalized Allergy Pack and ongoing care you need to achieve peak relief.

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Clean moldy areas

If you’ve already identified a spot in your home where mold is growing (hint: it looks like spots and smells musty), it’s time to put on some rubber gloves and do some cleaning—sooner rather than later.

There are a number of different cleaning products that are geared toward mold, but even bleach can be effective. The CDC advises mixing no more than one cup of household laundry bleach in one gallon of water, and then scrubbing the mold off of surfaces. Make sure you also wear protective eyewear.

While we’re on the topic of cleaning, you’ll also want to clean your air filter if you can. Where these are located depends on your HVAC system, but most can be found in your return air duct.

Reduce moisture

Remember, mold thrives in a damp environment. So, you need to reduce moisture in your home as much as possible. Some simple ways to do this include:

  • Always turning on a fan in the bathroom when you shower
  • Using a dehumidifier in particularly damp areas (like your basement, for example)

That keeps moisture to a minimum, and hopefully keeps those gross mold spores from popping up.

Avoid mold as much as possible

We know—you’d never intentionally go hang out around mold (because ew). But, it can be prevalent in some unexpected places, which you’ll want to address if mold is one of your known allergy triggers.

Where can you find mold? Indoors, it’s frequently found in:

  • air conditioning and heating vents
  • basements
  • bathrooms
  • kitchens (particularly near the sink or refrigerator)
  • mattresses
  • windows and window sills

Of course, these places are tough to avoid. That’s why thorough and frequent cleaning is important for these mold-prone areas.

Mold is also found outdoors, in things like:

  • cut grass
  • fallen leaves
  • rotting wood
  • soil

The National Allergy Bureau publishes pollen counts and mold counts for specific regions, so you can know when mold is high in your area.

How do you deal with mold allergies on top of seasonal allergies?

Regardless of what type of allergies you’re dealing with, it’s not a fun time.

But, at least there’s a little bit of good news ahead: Most of the treatments you use for your mold allergies—especially antihistamines and steroid nasal sprays—will address your seasonal allergies too.

Get your mold allergies under control

We’ll admit it—mold allergies can be tricky. Mold is persistent and grows in a lot of different places, which makes it tough to wipe out.

Don't be discouraged. With the right knowledge and the right treatments, you're well on your way. Take that, mold.

ARTICLE REVIEWED BY
Amina H. Abdeldaim, MD MPH
Picnic Medical Director
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