Allergies, also known as allergic diseases, and asthma are reactions that occur when your immune system fights off a foreign substance entering the body. Allergies are one of the most common diseases in the world, and here in the U.S., they affect 1 in 5 people, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Many people incorrectly attribute their allergies to indoor dust, pollen, pets and the season. But, there are other substances such as mold both outdoors and indoors that may be the cause of your allergies as well.
Truth be told, allergic reactions to mold and fungi has been underestimated for a long time.
There are approximately 1,000 species of mold that have been identified here in the U.S., and most are not visible to the naked eye. Almost all molds can cause allergies and illness. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology says that the most common allergy-causing molds include Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporium and Penicillium. These molds can be found both indoors and outdoors. When these tiny mold spores become airborne, they can cause severe allergic reactions in people who have mold sensitivity issues, allergies and/or are immune compromised.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “If you have an allergy that occurs over several seasons, you may be allergic to the spores of molds or other fungi. Molds live everywhere. Upsetting a mold source can send the spores into the air.
Mold and mildew are fungi. They are different from plants or animals in how they reproduce and grow. The “seeds,” called spores, travel through the air. Some spores spread in dry, windy weather. Others spread with the fog or dew when humidity is high.
Inhaling the spores causes allergic reactions in some people. Allergic symptoms from fungus spores are most common from July to early fall. But fungi grow in many places, both indoors and outside, so allergic reactions can occur year round.”
A May 2015 study titled, “Mold Allergens in Respiratory Allergy: From Structure to Therapy,” had shown data from several epidemiological studies that provide evidence for the important role of mold and fungi in respiratory disease in the indoor as well as in the outdoor environment. Exposure to mold was found more often in patients with asthma and is a factor for the development of asthma.
According to the report, “mold allergy has long been underestimated and occurs more frequently than expected. Since mold allergic patients are often polysensitized, IgE antibodies to other allergen sources might mask mold allergy. Therefore, the precise determination of the disease-causing allergen source is particularly important for mold allergy and is the basis to correctly prescribe the most appropriate specific forms of treatment.”
For example, Aspergillosis is a name describing a group of diseases caused by Aspergillus. The most common subtype among paranasal sinus infections associated with aspergillosis is A. fumigatus. The symptoms include fever, cough, chest pain, or breathlessness, which also occur in many other illnesses, so diagnosis can be difficult. Usually, only patients with already weakened immune systems or who suffer other lung conditions are susceptible.
In humans, the major forms of disease are:
- Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, which affects patients with respiratory diseases such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, and sinusitis
- Acute invasive aspergillosis, a form that grows into surrounding tissue, more common in those with weakened immune systems such as AIDS or chemotherapy patients
- Disseminated invasive aspergillosis, an infection spread widely through the body
- Aspergilloma, a “fungus ball” that can form within cavities such as the lung (Wikipedia)
Why are people allergic to mold?
Certain molds produce toxins called mycotoxins which are chemicals that cause cells to break down. You have to touch, breathe-in or swallow a mold in order to be affected by these toxins. It is the people who are allergic to these molds and mycotoxins that live in water-damaged building that are having allergy, asthma, and many other health issues.
The most common symptoms of mold exposure are coughing, runny nose, sneezing, wheezing, sore throat, mucus, watery eyes, eye and/or skin irritation. People with asthma or allergies may notice their symptoms worsen when they are in their homes or when they are outside on a windy day. People with immune suppression, chronic respiratory disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma), lung disease, cancer and/or other diseases may be more sensitive to mold and susceptible to fungal infections.
Do you have mold in your home, office or school?
Molds are very common in homes, commercial buildings, and government buildings such as schools and libraries. Mold will grow anywhere indoors where there is moisture or that are damaged by water. In fact, several studies have shown that approximately 50% of the homes in the U.S. reported a prevalence of various moisture-related conditions, and the EPA has said that 85% of buildings had past water damage, and 45% had current water leaks. A survey by the General Accounting Office reported that 30% of schools had plumbing problems, and 27% had roof problems.
That’s a lot of water damaged buildings and a very serious health risk to potentially millions of people across the nation.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission released a 1998 report titled, “The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality.” The report states that select indoor air pollutants can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air, and that the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors. The EPA said in the report that for “many people, the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors.”
Mold in homes has been proved to be associated with the development of asthma and the severity of respiratory symptoms in children. Indoor exposure to mold had been shown to cause coughing, increased peak expiratory flow variability, asthma and asthma-related death. In has been noted by scientists in a study of the city of Chicago, that deaths from asthma was approximately twice as common on days with a high total mold spore count as on days with lower spore counts.
In rural areas, respiratory symptoms have been linked to increased amounts of spores during crop ripening, harvest, and storage. Furthermore, thunderstorm-related asthma was found to be associated with increased spore concentrations of fungal species from Ascomycota and Basidiomycota.(1)
Board-certified environmental medical specialist, and pediatric allergist, Dr. Doris Rapp has dedicated much of her practice to the study of mold and its toxic affect on children. Dr. Rapp has found through her extensive research that mold can seriously affect the behavior, learning, and motors skills of children.
Dr. Rapp says, “Most people don’t realize that some people can be very, very sensitive. The most astounding thing in relation to mold that I’ve noticed is the changes that it can affect and in your behavior. Children can’t write. If you look at any of my books on my website, you’ll see that their writing is fine and I put a drop of mold allergy extract in their arm and they write upside down. They put their pencil on the paper and rip it in half.
They write very, very tiny. They write real large. They’re all over the place.
Teachers don’t know this. If a youngster is going to a moldy school for example, you may find that a child is fine at home but at school, they can’t learn a thing. They can’t remember a thing. They can’t write. They can’t draw. They can’t walk. Any area of the body can be affected. The teachers, educators are not aware of the fact that molds — and in fact, dust and chemicals and pollens and foods can affect any area of the body.”
She says, “I don’t know how to get this message out, but those of you that are listening, if you’re fine or your child is fine and suddenly something is wrong… Whatever it is, ask yourself,
What did they eat?
What did they touch?
What did they smell?
Most allergies occur within 15 minutes to an hour. Some reactions—the food related ones that cause colitis or bed wetting—can cause trouble right away.”
Do you have allergies or asthma and suspect it may be mold in your home?
If you or anyone in your home has has bad allergies, asthma, and/or sinusitis, and doctors have been unable to find the cause of your illness, then it may very well be mold in your home and/or in the atmosphere. It would be a very good idea to either get a professional mold inspection or DIY mold test kit to see if you do in fact have a mold problem in your home.
- PubMed: Mold Allergens in Respiratory Allergy: From Structure to Therapy
- Other sources are named above and or linked too
Moe Bedard is the founder and CEO of Mold Safe Solutions. A full-service Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) company specializing in property water damage, mold inspections, consultations, and mold remediation. If you need help with a project, please call Mold Safe Solutions at 760-818-6830.