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Mold is all over the place — outdoors and indoors – though you might not notice. It spreads by releasing tiny, lightweight spores that travel through the air. It grows quickly in moist dark spaces, such as basements, garbage cans, and piles of rotting leaves.
When it’s on food, you can usually see signs, such as the fuzzy green spots that appear on bread. As it grows, the mold’s roots can sink deep inside the food, where you can’t see it.
All of us are exposed to some mold every day, and usually, there are no problems. We may breathe in spores from the air or eat foods in which mold has started to grow.
But if you have allergies to it, you can have a reaction if you’re around too much of it.
What Are the Symptoms?
Like many other allergies, the warning signs can include:
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Rash or hives
You might not be able to totally avoid mold when you’re allergic to it. But you can lower your risk of a reaction by choosing your foods carefully.
Check everything you eat for signs of mold before you chow down.
Don’t smell foods to see if they’re spoiled, because inhaling mold spores can set off an allergic reaction.
Also, avoid foods that are more likely to contain mold or other fungi, such as mushrooms and yeast. Common culprits include:
- Vinegar and foods containing vinegar, such as salad dressing, catsup, and pickles
- Sour cream, sour milk, and buttermilk
- Meat or fish
- Breads and other food made with yeast
- Jarred jams and jellies
- Pickled and smoked meats and fish
- Dried fruits such as dates, prunes, figs, and raisins
- Soy sauce
- Hot dogs, sausages
- Canned juices
- Leftovers that are more than 3 or 4 days old
If you’re allergic to mold, you’ve probably already noticed: It can be tough to avoid the stuff. It doesn’t just hide in dark, damp basements. It can also grow on your bathroom tiles or around your windows.
You can find it outside too, on leaves and rotting wood, and inside in damp basements. And you can bring it into your home on your shoes, where it settles in on the carpet.
When you come in contact with mold, you may get symptoms like a runny or stuffy nose and itchy, watery eyes. And if you don’t get it treated, it can sometimes lead to more serious health problems.
How It Causes Allergies
Mold is a fungus with a big job in the natural world: It breaks down dead plant matter. It spreads through tiny spores that can cause an allergic reaction, but only a few types bring on allergies.
How to Tell if You’re Allergic
The only way you can know for sure is to see an allergist. He’ll ask about your symptoms and what seems to trigger them. If he thinks you have a mold allergy, he’ll probably do tests to confirm it.
When Mold Allergies Occur
Although they happen any time of year, allergies to outdoor mold can be worse in summer and fall. They can be especially bad when wet leaves sit around in piles.
How to Prevent Symptoms
To avoid problems from mold that’s outside:
- Stay inside when mold counts are high.
- Keep wet leaves away from your home. Clean gutters.
- Get rid of standing water in your yard.
To keep mold allergies away when you’re inside your home:
- Take off your shoes at the door.
- Clean your bathroom often with bleach and get rid of soap scum, which can harbor mold.
- When you shower, open a window or run an exhaust fan.
- Fix any leaks right away. Dry wet areas within 48 hours to prevent the fungus from growing.
- Run a dehumidifier in damp basements or other rooms.
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
To Treat Symptoms
- Try over-the-counter antihistamines, eye drops, or nasal sprays.
- Talk to your doctor about prescription drugs.
- Ask your allergist if you should get allergy shots.
DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other healthcare provider. Always consult your healthcare provider about your medications, symptoms, and health problems.