Fall is the season for mold allergies and seasonal mold allergies can be experienced from mid-August until mid-December. They may subside as the cold weather starts, or flare up when the weather is damp and rainy. And, a mold allergy can be year-round if you are continuously exposed to indoor mold. For people who are sensitive to mold, the Washington D.C. region is a problem because the water level is high and this encourages mold growth.
Sources of Mold
Only some types of mold spores actually cause mycotoxin illness- but a mold allergy can be tricky because mold is common and thrives in so many places.
Moisture in walls, carpet, basements, bathrooms, leaky pipes, dehumidifier pans, refrigerator drip pans, water leaks, or general water accumulation can encourage mold growth. You may not see it, but you should inspect your living area and correct any moisture problems immediately. A damp basement or bathroom, dirty trash can, dirty gutters, roof leak, and houseplants are ripe for mold. Replacing carpet with hardwood floors, fixing leaky pipes, frequent vacuuming with a hepa filter, changing your furnace filter, and having proper ventilation in bathrooms are all helpful in addressing mold allergies.
Here are some other places to consider with hidden sources of mold where you might see a mold allergy flare up:
- Large warehouse “big box” stores
- Greenhouses, florists
- Antique stores
- Construction zones/home remodeling
- Piles of leaves, mowing over leaves
- Wood piles
- Halloween mazes, farms, hay bales, petting zoo
Symptoms of a Mold Allergy
The symptoms of mold allergies are the same as with any type of respiratory allergy: sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes/nose/throat, nasal congestion, cough or post nasal drainage, headache, rash, even asthma.
Health conditions that may be mold-related in addition to typical allergic rhinitis are irritable bowel, ulcerative colitis, and interstitial colitis. Other health conditions that may be allergy related include anxiety, irritability, joint pain, muscle pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue. It is important to note there is a difference between mold illness and an allergic reaction. Prolonged mold exposure can often trigger the immune system to become hyperreactive to stimuli that it may normally encounter such as foods and other environmental allergens. An allergy to mold can worsen outcome in mold/mycotoxin illness because not only is your body inundated with the chemical messengers released by molds, but it is more sensitive to even a small presence. It is important to distinguish the two and treat both as separate issues.
Proper Testing for Mold Allergy and Mycotoxins
Testing for myotoxin illness includes various blood markers and/or urine mycotoxin testing as well as interpretation of symptoms. The presence of mold in your environment can be detected using ERMI testing, mold plates, and various other air sampling techniques. Testing for mold allergies can include electrodermal screening, blood testing, interpretation of symptoms and/or muscle testing. These conditions can improve after treatment for mold allergies, pollen, dust and food sensitivities, finding and eradicating other immune system triggers such as infections, and removing the mycotoxins from the body with binders.
Mold Allergy Treatment
Allergies affect both the immune system and the autonomic nervous system. NIHA'S dual allergy testing and treatment strategy addresses both the immune system response and the autonomic nervous system response to the allergen. We have non-invasive, needleless testing for not only molds, but dust, inhalants and common allergens. I may recommend the use of mold plates or dust sampling in your home or office to see where mold colonies grow. The mold plates are easy to order and set up in an area. Testing is more reliable if the different molds are tested separately. A customized treatment plan is developed based on the findings.
Once you identify the moisture source it can be fixed, and a source of mold eliminated although sometimes if your symptoms and blood/urine mycotoxin levels are not improving it may be necessary to test other potential sources of exposure or move if it is indeed a mold issue in your home that has been resistant to remediation.
There may be several different sources of mold and a patient can improve tremendously as we slowly identify and correct each mold problem over the course of months with allergy treatment.
Autumn Frandsen, ND, is a Naturopathic Physician at National Integrated Health Associates, NIHA, serving the Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. As a naturopath, her philosophy is to use the least invasive and most effective method to bring natural balance back to the body and restore health. Her areas of focus include Allergies and Food/Chemical Sensitivities, Herbals and Homeopathy, Heavy Metal Detoxification, Anti-aging Medicine, Cancer co-management, and Women's and Men's Health.