Mold Allergy Avoidance
How to Stay Well
If you have a mold allergy, avoidance is the best strategy to prevent symptoms. How can you avoid mold? What can you do to reduce your exposure both inside and outside? Did you know that mold can cause health problems much worse than allergies? Come read and learn how to avoid mold allergy symptoms.
Blog information is NOT intended to provide or replace medical advice. NO information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition.
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What are Allergies and Asthma?
Before we talk about how to avoid mold and other allergens, let’s define what allergies and asthma are. An allergy is an immune response that causes harm to the body in some way. An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system reacts to a substance (which is harmless to most people) to which the body has become hypersensitive. Allergies are a chronic condition and have no cure. A mold allergy is an allergy that is specifically related to mold.
Asthma is a “respiratory condition marked by spasms in the bronchi of the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing. It usually results from an allergic reaction or other forms of hypersensitivity.” People that experience asthma usually (but not always) have allergies as well.
Asthma and allergy triggers include: cold air, cold and flu viruses, smoke, mold, dust, dirt, pollen and more. The number one way to prevent allergy symptoms and asthma attacks is to prevent these allergens from entering your body.
What Is Mold? Where Does It Live?
From the arctic to equator and all the places in between, mold lives literally everywhere. Molds are fungi, and grow from microscopic spores that are everywhere in the air. It is impossible to completely avoid mold. (However, you can limit your exposure. Keep reading to find out more!)
Molds are important for recycling organic matter (such as leaves). The recycling process they perform returns nutrients to the soil, and is important for plants to grow. In order to grow, molds need four things: oxygen, moisture, a food source, and the right temperature range (ideal is between 77F – 86F).
Molds grow inside of their food sources. Anything with carbohydrates in it could be considered a food source for molds. In your home, molds penetrate deeply into drywall, carpets, floors, cabinets, underneath kitchen and bathroom sinks, etc.
Moisture is the one thing you can reasonably control when it comes to mold. A dry home equals a home with much less mold growth. Keeping areas dry, especially areas that use water frequently (like bathrooms), is important to prevent mold growth.
How Fast Do Molds Grow?
Moisture behind baseboards and cabinets, wet carpet tack strips, in crawl spaces, basements, and other hard to reach areas are a ticking mold time bomb.
Once enough moisture is present, molds can begin to grow in less than 48 hours! If you have a flooding event in your home (broken pipe, sewer backup, excessive rain, etc) it may not be enough to prevent mold growth, even with fans going and mopping up the water.
Black Mold – Something Of A Misnomer
Before we go any further, let’s clear up the confusion about ‘black mold.’ When you read about ‘toxic black mold’ it is kind of misleading. The thing is… dangerous and toxic mold is not just black, it can be many different colors. Toxic molds can appear to be green, yellow, brown, and black.
All molds have the potential to cause irritation and allergy symptoms. However, some molds can also cause much more dangerous health problems. Some molds, but not all, produce mycotoxins. Not all molds are toxic, but many are. Mycotoxins can cause health problems ranging from poisoning to cancer.
So, What is a Mycotoxin?
Mycotoxins, literally ‘fungus poison’ in Latin, are secondary metabolites that can be produced by molds, and are not living organisms. Mycotoxins are a byproduct of mold. Not all mold spores produce mycotoxins, but some do.
So, where is the line between an allergic mold and a toxic mold? That line is defined by the presence of mycotoxins, and is NOT defined by color. Mycotoxins are invisible and cannot be detected just by looking at the mold growth. Only molds that produce mycotoxins are categorized as toxic or poisonous.
What Do Mycotoxins Do?
These chemical substances can cause many health problems ranging from mild to severe. Even if you are NOT allergic to mold, you can be affected by mycotoxins.
Mycotoxins can be absorbed by the body in a number of ways including: through the skin, the airways (inhalation), and through the intestinal lining (ingestion). Detrimental health effects caused by mycotoxins can range from “acute poisoning to long-term effects such as immune deficiency and cancer.” Chronic disease sufferers, such as people with immunosuppressive disorders or underlying lung disease may be more sensitive to molds and mycotoxins in their environment.
One of the main ways people and pets become poisoned by mycotoxins is through eating contaminated foods. Foods such as apples, cereal grains, coffee beans, nuts, spices, dog and cat food, and more can become contaminated with fungi that produce mycotoxins.
To learn more about mycotoxins in foods check out the World Health Organization’s article: Mycotoxins.
Did you know that toxic mold can affect your pets as well? To learn more about how mold affects your pets check out our article: Mold and Pets – 10 Things You Most Likely Didn’t Know.
Health Effects Of Mold – Exposure Symptoms
Even for people in good health, exposure to large amounts of mycotoxins and molds can overwhelm the immune system and cause symptoms of poisoning. Mycotoxins can be especially dangerous for people with compromised immune systems.
People with allergies get a double hit, being both exposed to mycotoxins and being allergic. However it’s not all bad! It also means that you may discover the mold more quickly than someone without allergies. The longer you are exposed to mold and mycotoxins, the longer they have time to build up in your body. The longer the toxins are in your body, the more dangerous the health effects can be.
Check out our article: Health Effects of Mold – What You Probably Don’t Know to learn more.
Mold Allergy Symptoms
The chemicals released by the immune system of the person with mold allergies can cause symptoms such as:
- Itching in the nose, roof of the mouth, throat, eyes
- Stuffy nose (congestion)
- Runny nose
- Tearing eyes
- Eye irritation – red eyes, blurred vision
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Chronic burning in the throat and nasal passages
- Coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath (Asthma)
- Skin rashes
Mycotoxin Poisoning Symptoms
Mold allergy symptoms are usually the first symptoms to appear. Chronic exposure to mold and mycotoxins over time can cause much more dangerous health problems than just allergies. Some of the symptoms associated with mold and mycotoxins can include:
- Loss of balance
- Dizziness and Disorientation
- Reduced color distinction
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Light sensitivity
- Feeling lightheaded
- Morning stiffness, joint pain and/or muscle pain
- Muscle weakness
- Slower reaction time
- Poor memory, difficult word finding
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unusual skin sensations, tingling and numbness
- Appetite and mood swings
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating
- Metallic taste in mouth
- Body temperature regulation problems
- Increased urinary frequency, increased sweating (especially at night), or increased thirst
As you can see, the list is quite long! It is also not a list of symptoms that would immediately point a doctor to a specific illness. Some symptoms (like the symptoms associated with allergies) manifest immediately, but others may take months or years to develop.
Please remember that this blog is NOT intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Always talk to your doctor about symptoms of any medical condition you are experiencing. It is unlikely to experience all the symptoms listed, but many of these symptoms could be cause for concern. An open dialog with your doctor is important for any medical condition. Ask questions to be sure you understand your diagnosis, treatment, and recovery process.
To learn more about our sources of information, please check out the ‘For More Information’ section at the end of this article.
Mold Allergy Avoidance Strategies – At Home
Mold allergens in your home typically stem from mold inside your home or business that no one has noticed. The main sources for mold growth in homes are water leaks from faucets, roofs, hot water heaters, appliances, ground water damage and even sewer backup. Find the water leaks, and find the source of the problem. There are 2 sure ways to keep mold out of your home: keep your home dry and keep it clean.
Keep it Dry
Dramatic flooding is of course a major problem, but usually people notice when pipes have burst or flood waters have invaded their homes. These are dramatic events!
However, tiny cracks in pipes and hoses, and clogs in drains can become a nightmare if forgotten long enough. Tiny leaks over a long period of time can cause as much or more damage than flooding water type events. Because they go unnoticed, tiny leaks can cause more damage than most people realize.
Periodically checking your home for leaks (at least 4 times per year) can prevent problems before they start. Inside bathroom and kitchen sink cabinets, behind appliances, inside roofs, in the crawl space and basements are likely places to find tiny leaks and mold growth. Check out our post Top 10 Ways to Prevent Water Damage to stop problems before they start.
Top 6 Places to Find Mold
Bathrooms, laundry rooms, kitchens, crawl spaces, basements, and attics are the rooms in your home that are the most likely to grow mold. Pipes run through these spaces and water is used frequently. Ventilation is very important in keeping these areas dry!
Keep It Clean
Avoiding excess moisture is just one way to keep mold out of your home. Mold can also enter on your shoes, animal’s paws, and through your HVAC system. Mold, dust, dirt, pollen and other allergens can be avoided inside your home where you have more control over your environment.
To reduce the amount of allergens that enter your home:
- Take your shoes off before or as soon as you enter your home, and ask others to do likewise
- Vacuum often (daily or at least weekly) with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter
- Remove all the carpet in your home and replace it with hard surface flooring. Carpet is a magnet for dust, dirt, pollen, mold, and other pollutants. To learn more about the nasty things lurking in your ‘clean’ carpets check our post: Carpet and Mold – 12 Things You Need to Know.
- Change your HVAC filters at least every 3 months and check your HVAC system yearly for leaks
- Keep dust and mold out of your HVAC system. To learn more check out our posts: How to Keep Mold Out of Your HVAC system and 12 Facts about Duct Cleaning – How to Avoid Scams.
Mold Allergy Avoidance Strategies – Outside
The number one way to prevent allergy symptoms and asthma attacks is to prevent these allergens from entering your body.
Dust masks or face masks help keep dust, pollen, mold spores, and some virus particles from entering your lungs. Dust masks do a decent job of this, and can help you breathe much easier if you wear one outdoors. N-95 masks are the gold standard in preventing small particles like mold spores, dust, and pollen from entering your lungs. Masks are useful year round, but especially in the fall.
Why are mold allergies and asthma a problem outdoors in the fall?
Mold outdoors is a problem in the fall because of the vast amount of food available to fungi. Most fungi eat plant or animal materials that are dead: leaves, cut wood, grass clippings, etc. In the fall, all deciduous trees shed their leaves giving the native fungi a feast! Great for them… bad for air quality.
If you are allergic or sensitive to mold, it is a good idea to delegate leaf raking to someone else. If you must DIY, be sure to wear a mask, leave shoes outdoors, and shower immediately after raking.
Asthma Peak Week
Each year in the third week of September, multiple factors contribute to a phenomenon known as ‘Asthma Week.’ Many, many people end up in emergency rooms and urgent care facilities with complications due to asthma during this week and throughout the month of September. Why?
September just happens to have an unusual combination of factors that lead to problems for allergy and asthma sufferers. High pollen counts from ragweed, high mold spore counts from raking leaves, cold air, and smoke from campfires all contribute to flare ups from allergies and asthma. Cold and flu viruses are also increasing as more people go inside to avoid the cold. The good news is that by knowing the triggers, and how to avoid them, you can greatly reduce the possibility of an attack.
Wearing a face covering or mask, and staying at least 6 feet from other people can also prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus including all the different variants. To learn more visit our post: In-depth Guide to Face Masks: Allergies, Grass Cutting, and COVID-19.
Time of Day
What time of day you are outside can also affect the amount of pollutants and allergens in the air. If you live in a large city, air pollution can cause problems for allergy and asthma sufferers. Most large cities have air pollution warning systems available to the public. On days with high pollution, try to avoid exercising outdoors or spending a lot of time outside.
The hours between 10am and 3pm usually have the highest pollen counts. Try to avoid being outdoors during that time of day if pollen is an asthma or allergy trigger. If you must be outdoors, be sure to wear a mask.
How Do You Choose a Mold Inspection and Removal Company?
If you suspect you have mold in your home, due to allergy or asthma problems, do you know who to call? Do you know what to ask mold inspection and removal companies before you hire them? What do mold removal companies actually do?
As a mold removal company, we know what you should expect and what the industry standards should be. Some of our competitors offer “free” mold inspections. Which basically means that the inspector shows up and hands over a price to fix a symptom, without truly knowing the nature of the problem. The primary reason that we charge for our mold inspections is the time and resources that go into each one.
If you think you might have a mold problem, you’re far better off with a thorough inspection like ours. We analyze the symptoms to determine the root cause of your problem, and will only recommend solutions that will solve the actual problem.
Especially if you live outside our service area, check out our post: How to Choose the Best Mold Removal Company. We let you know what you should expect from a mold removal company and what the industry standards should be. If the company you interview doesn’t know the answer to the questions in our article, you don’t want to hire them!
We’re Here When You Need Us
At Branch Environmental, our company slogan is that “Nobody should live or work in a building that makes them sick!” When we perform an inspection, we work tirelessly to determine the root cause of your problem.
We know your health is your priority, and we see each mold inspection as an in-depth investigation. If you think you need a mold inspection, get in touch with us, and we’ll get down to the source.
Call Branch Environmental. We’re experts not only at mold removal, but at determining and remediating the underlying causes. From hidden mold sources to major contaminants, we can identify exactly what is going on in your home and rid it of environmental toxins, often for good.
Branch Environmental – Because nobody should live or work in a building that makes them sick.
Branch’s Recommended Mold Removal Products
We highly recommend these products and protective equipment as safe and effective in removing mold and mildew. All products are safe to use around kids and pets, except for essential oils. Some essential oils can irritate lungs and eyes, so please use with caution.
Before cleaning a moldy area be sure to check out our article: Black Mold vs Mildew – 7 Common Misconceptions and When to DIY before cleaning. We give you all the details on how to clean mold safely.
Never mix cleansing products! Remember to read all directions before beginning. Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment when cleaning, and be sure to properly ventilate the room.
All links are to Amazon listings for purchase. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
Your purchase helps support our mission of education through our blog. Thank you for purchasing through Branch Environmental!
- N-95 Respirator – best!
- Blue Disposable Face Mask
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- White Vinegar
- Baking Soda
- Tea Tree Essential Oil
- Concrobium Mold Control Cleaner
- Bioesque Botanical Disinfectant Solution
- Goggles Or Eye Protection
- Protective Gloves With Long Cuffs
- Kitchen Sink Strainers – Pack of 2
Please note that vacuum and steam cleaners are not designed to remove mold. We have included our picks below for vacuum and steam carpet cleaners for regular cleaning NOT mold removal purposes. Thank you.
For more information go to:
- Mold allergy – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic
- Mold allergy – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: AAAAI
- Mold Allergy – Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment | AAFA.org
- Asthma and Mold – Branch Environmental
- Mold Allergy Symptoms & Prevention – Branch Environmental
- How Your Home Can Affect Your Allergies – Branch Environmental
- When Mold Is Worse Than Allergies – Branch Environmental
- Mycotoxins Fact Sheet – World Health Organization
- Mold Exposure Symptoms – Branch Environmental
- Mold and Mycotoxins: Effects on the Brain and Nervous System in Adults – Branch Environmental
- Symptoms List – Mold Exposure | Mold Illness | Mold Testing | Mold Prevention – SurvivingToxicMold.com
- Effects of Mold on Children’s Health – Branch Environmental
- Mold and Pets – 10 Things You Most Likely Didn’t Know – Branch Environmental
- Health Effects of Mold – What You Probably Don’t Know – Branch Environmental
- What we now know about how to fight the delta variant of COVID | Column – J. Stacey Klutts, Professor of Pathology, University of Iowa (8/10/21)
- In-depth Guide to Face Masks: Allergies, Grass Cutting, and COVID-19 – Branch Environmental
- Georgia Air Monitoring – State of Georgia Air Quality Monitoring
- Asthma and Allergen Reduction through Mold Remediation – Branch Environmental
- Why Fall Is The Worst Season For Allergies And Asthma – Branch Environmental
- Protect Yourself During Asthma Peak Week: Tips to Help You Avoid Asthma Episodes – Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)
- It’s Asthma Peak Week — Here’s How to Get Ready – Forbes
- 7 Fall Asthma Triggers to Avoid – Everyday Health
Mold Prevention and Remediation
- 10 Things You Need To Know Today About Black Mold From a Water Leak – Branch Environmental
- Mold from a Water Leak? – Everything You Need to Know – Branch Environmental
- Top 6 Types of Water Damage and How to Avoid Them – Branch Environmental
- Top 10 Ways to Prevent Water Damage – Branch Environmental
- How to Prevent Bathroom Mold – Branch Environmental
- Bathroom Exhaust Fans – All You Need To Know – Branch Environmental
- HEPA Filters: What They Are & How They Work – allergyandair.com
- Air Duct Mold Removal – Everything You Need to Know – Branch Environmental
- Carpet and Mold – 12 Things You Need to Know – Branch Environmental
- Dust Mites – Branch Environmental
- 5 Tips from the Experts on Crawl Space Mold Prevention – Branch Environmental
- Basement Mold Prevention – Branch Environmental
- Attic Mold Removal – 6 Things You Should Know – Branch Environmental
- How to Keep Mold Out of Your HVAC system – Branch Environmental
- 12 Facts about Duct Cleaning – How to Avoid Scams – Branch Environmental
- Basic Facts about Mold and Dampness – CDC
Research Articles – Mold and Health
- Baldo, J.M. et. al. 2010. Neuropsychological Performance of Patients Following Mold Exposure. Applied Neuropsychology. Volume 9, 2002 – Issue 4, p193-202. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/S15324826AN0904_1
- Creago, R.B. et. al. 2010. Psychological, Neuropsychological, and Electrocortical Effects of Mixed Mold Exposure. Archives of Environmental Health. Volume 58, 2003 – Issue 8, p452-463 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3200/AEOH.58.8.452-463
- Kilburn, K. 2017. Indoor Mold Exposure Associated with Neurobehavioral and Pulmonary Impairment: A Preliminary Report. Archives of Environmental Health. Volume 58, 2003 – Issue 7, p390-398. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00039896.2003.11879139
- Ratnaseelan, A. M. et. al. 2018. Effects of Mycotoxins on Neuropsychiatric Symptoms and Immune Processes. Clinical Therapeutics V40, number 6, p903-917. https://www.clinicaltherapeutics.com/article/S0149-2918(18)30229-7/pdf
- Rea, W. J. et. al. 2017. Effects of Toxic Exposure to Molds and Mycotoxins in Building-Related Illnesses. Volume 58, 2003 – Issue 7, p399-405. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00039896.2003.11879140
- Harris, S. et. al. (2019). Improving Housing Quality to Reduce Asthma Rates and Healthcare Costs in Athens-Clarke County, GA. Journal of the Georgia Public Health Association: Vol. 7 : No. 2 , Article 1. https://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/jgpha/vol7/iss2/1
- Kercsmar, CM, et al. (2006). Reduction in asthma morbidity in children as a result of home remediation aimed at moisture sources. Environmental Health Perspectives, 114:1574–1580. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17035145
- Jacob, B. et.al. (2002). Indoor Exposure to Molds and Allergic Sensitization. Environmental Health Perspectives. Volume 110, No.7, p647-653. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/pdf/10.1289/ehp.02110647
- Santilli, J. and Rockwell, W. (2003). Fungal contamination of elementary schools: a new environmental hazard. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Volume 90, Issue 2, Pages 203-208.
- Jedrychowski, W., Maugeri, U., Perera, F., Stigter, L., Jankowski, J., Butscher, M., Mroz, E., Flak, E., Skarupa, A., & Sowa, A. (2011). Cognitive function of 6-year old children exposed to mold-contaminated homes in early postnatal period. Prospective birth cohort study in Poland. Physiology & behavior, 104(5), 989–995. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.06.019 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3758954/