If you suspect that you’re allergic to mold, the best solution to confirm these suspicions is not only to be familiar with mold allergies and their resulting symptoms, but to simply have an allergen-specific immunoglobulin blood test done (or a skin test for those who are needle adverse).
In these tests, specific extracts of different fungi (mold) are tested against reactions to your body – and most tests are narrowed down to a group of common types of mold or fungi that you may be allergic to.
Whether you have your results handy and you’re curious about a specific common mold, or you’re simply curious on where these molds come from and how they impact you – we’ll walk you through the five common types of mold you may be allergic to and where they may be coming from.
Five Common Molds in Allergy Tests
Even if you’re not allergic to mold, repeated exposure to molds can result in numerous symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, skin irritation, fever, and even shortness of breath. Depending on your allergen-specific IgE blood or skin test, you may find that reaction is higher from one mold type to another, but in general, if you’re allergic to mold – you will always have reactions to any other type of common mold.
Aspergillus is a common fungus whose spores are present in the air we breathe (yup, you may be breathing it in right at this very moment). You may be exposed to Aspergillus through your air conditioning system, but it’s also commonly found in soil, decaying plant debris, compost piles, and stored grain.
Indoors, Aspergillus will grow on surfaces such as building materials, leather, and even clothing, depending on the amount of moisture present. They can be commonly found in basements and cellars. Other molds can also piggyback on it, causing serious health effects to both allergy sufferers and non-sufferers alike.
In fact, people with compromised immune systems can be in danger of contracting Aspergillosis, a group of diseases that includes fungal sinusitis, nail fungus and keratitis (eye infection).
How should you avoid them? Because they are so common, it is actually difficult to avoid them completely according to the CDC. But for those allergic to Aspergillus, they are most commonly present when cleaning is being carried out mechanically (e.g. when carpets are vacuum cleaned) and the spores gets further picked up into the air. Simply stepping out of the vicinity when a room is being cleaned can avoid allergic reactions and triggers for those sensitive to Aspergillus.
For those with numerous indoor plants and flower pots, consider relocating them or replacing them as various Aspergillus species are commonly found in indoor plant soils.
Penicillium can actually be identified by those who have experienced its heavy musty odor. They are commonly found on building materials, fabrics, and particularly when food spoils (as they are the most common fungi causing food spoilage).
Remember that green mold often seen on oranges? You’re likely looking at Penicillium – but its colors can also range in various shades of blue, green and white. In air conditioning systems, Penicillium can often be detected on cooling coils and or the interior fiberglass liner.
While Penicillium is best known as the mold type that gave birth to the first of the antibiotics, penicillin, some species of this mold type are known to cause a number of specific allergies including asthma and hay fever. In fact, it is also a major contributing factor in occupational illnesses such as Cheese washer’s lung and Woodman’s lung.
Even if you don’t have these unique occupations, you can avoid Penicillium mold allergies by doing due diligence on food spoilage and by frequently cleaning out your refrigerator and pantry to reduce Penicillium growth and exposure within your home.
Cladosporium is yet another common mold types found worldwide. It almost always found to be the most plentiful of airborne mold spores outside. Found in soil, old plants and plant litter, it can also be a plant pathogen.
Indoors, like Aspergillus above, you’ll find Cladosporium commonly in kitchens and bathrooms – particular in rooms with wallpaper (and where moisture frequents).
This mold type may be common, but its dangers are thankfully rare in causing human illness. Having said that, health effects from frequent exposure to Cladosporium can include skin, eye, and sinus infections. As Cladosporium is an asthma trigger for allergy patients who also have asthma, negative symptoms can include sudden chest tightness, wheezing and difficulty breathing.
Like with many mold prevention tips, keeping the humidity level in check in your home, particularly in rooms such as the bathroom and kitchens, is important. Avoid installing wallpaper in these types of rooms, and for rooms that may be frequently exposed to damp conditions – frequently clean and check window frames to avoid moisture build-up.
Alternaria alternata, is a common allergy-causing fungi and the unfortunate news is that like many other molds – they can be found almost everywhere in the environment. Having said that, you can frequently find alternaria alternata in plants and particularly plant-based spoiled food. You’ll also find them usually in specific materials when exposed to damp environments such as textiles, canvas, cardboard, and paper.
While they are usually not found in building materials, they arrive indoors from outdoor sources and can easily grow and spread through your home via your home’s central air conditioning system.
For those not allergic to alternaria, like many mold problems, people with sensitive and compromised immune systems can cause serious infections in the respiratory tract.
You may have read news reports about the dangers of “toxic molds,” particularly Stachybotrys.
Stachybotrys grows on wet materials containing cellulose, such as drywall paper, wicker and straw materials; and in the soil, on decaying plant materials, leaf litter, and seeds.
This is the infamous “black mold” that is frequently found in an environment plagued by moisture intrusion. While the CDC has noted that Stachybotrys isn’t necessarily more harmful than other species of mold (that is, they can all negatively impact your health), basic precautions should still be taken to prevent their growth in your home.
This means if you have water damage anywhere in your home, you’ll want to fix the issues as soon as possible to prevent the growth of these greenish-black mold on building materials such as fiberboard and gypsum boards.
While black mold that has grown on hard surfaces may be able to be cleaned by commercial products – bleach solution, or soap and water – extensive mold that has crept into drywalls, cabinets, or other locations may require the service of a local restoration and mold cleanup company.
Mold Growth: Prevention Is Key
For allergies and asthma sufferers, you may be well versed in the trade for identifying triggers and source controlling these triggers. How you should handle mold sensitivity and allergies are no different – as it’s often much more cost effective to prevent the potential of mold build-up and growth in your home than having to clean up a hidden mold colony within your home.
If you live in humid areas, pay close attention to your “wet” rooms such as the bathroom and kitchen. Consider installing a humidity check and make it a habit to always run the exhaust fan and open windows after using the shower and bath. Keeping these rooms below 60% humidity level will help prevent mold growth.
During months where humidity levels are high, you will have to either frequently run your home’s HVAC unit to remove moisture from the air, or consider a dehumidifier if you suspect mold growth to be a constant problem for your home. For more about mold, the EPA has extensive materials on where you may find mold and moisture buildup – and how you can combat these problems.