Could my child have a mold allergy?

Sensitivity to mold is similar to pollen allergies and affects both adults and children. While allergies associated with outdoor mold spores peak in warm weather, indoor mold can pose problems year round.

Mold is another name for fungi – unsightly patches of brown, black, green, or yellow fuzzy growths. Mold, unwanted and usually unpleasant, is associated with damp basements, walls and carpets, dirty bathroom grout and musty smells. But without mold, we wouldn’t have penicillin, blue cheese, bread, beer, wine or edible mushrooms! In other words, mold isn’t all bad.

Most people, no matter where they live, are exposed to mold to some degree. Dampness and humidity provide the perfect breeding ground for mold. Mold is fairly ubiquitous, thriving on dampness virtually anywhere. To demonstrate an allergy, you must first be exposed and sensitized to the allergenic substance.

When we do basic allergy testing, mold sensitivity is part of the panel. Symptoms associated with mold allergies include:

  • sinus infection
  • runny nose
  • asthma symptoms such as wheezing and cough
  • itchy eyes, nose and throat
  • watery eyes

While indoor mold, even the unsightly “black” mold, can cause allergic symptoms, there is no evidence that it’s connected with migraine, memory loss, difficulty concentrating or other subjective or vague symptoms. The nasal and respiratory symptoms one experiences with exposure to mold usually reflects an allergy to mold and is rarely related to an infection.

Although cleaning mold can cause it to become airborne, we recommend removing it because it could be a reservoir for allergens. Humidity and water leaks can cause rapid reproduction and spread of the mold as well as other allergens so it is wise to address the source of moisture that is helping the mold to thrive.

The key to getting rid of mold is keeping things as dry as possible. You can run a dehumidifier in damp areas, get rid of carpeting and wallpaper in bathrooms and basements and wash visibly moldy spots with a bleach solution.

Less so today than two decades ago, companies promote services to measure and report mold spore counts in the home. In the past, the severity of mold conditions was at times overstated, perhaps with an eye toward a lucrative cleanup. The hype about dangerous mold has died down a significantly since then and most in-home cleanups can be done by homeowners. But if the mold covers a large area, professional expertise may be necessary, as well as protection for both those removing the mold and the home’s occupants.