People can experience an allergic reaction to a wide variety of usually harmless substances, from pollen and dust to various foods and mold. If you are allergic to mold, your symptoms flare up when you breathe in spores, whether from a moldy basement or from a container of forgotten leftovers. Symptoms of a mold allergy include itchy eyes and nose, a running nose, cough and congestion. Some people may have asthma along with an allergy to mold and may experience chest tightness and shortness of breath.
Several types of prescription and over-the-counter medicines are available to treat a mold allergy. Some people may see improvement after using a nasal corticosteroid, which lessens the inflammation on the nasal passages. Antihistamines can treat a runny and itchy nose while decongestants reduce swelling in the nose. Both antihistamines and decongestants are available in either pill or nasal spray form. If you have asthma as a result of a mold allergy, montelukast or cromolyn can help relieve symptoms.
Other Treatment Options
Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, may help treat mold allergies in some people. While allergy shots are very effective at treating some allergies, they are less so for mold allergies and may not work at all, according to the Mayo Clinic. Washing the nasal passages with a saline solution may help clear up unpleasant symptoms as well. You can mix your own solution by combining 3 tsp non-iodine salt with 1 tsp of baking soda, according to the Mayo Clinic. Use 1 tsp of the mix with 8 oz of water to rinse your nose.
Diagnosing a Mold Allergy
If you or your children have a mold allergy, you tend to have symptoms year-round, especially if you are constantly exposed to mold spores. Your doctor can diagnose a mold allergy by performing one or two tests. He may inject a small amount of mold into your skin to see if your skin reacts. He could also take a sample of your blood and send it out to be tested. The blood tests look to see how antibodies respond when exposed to different types of mold.
Keeping Mold at Bay
Though medical treatments can help relieve symptoms, the best way to keep a mold allergy under control is to avoid exposure to mold. You may need to steer clear of foods that naturally have high amounts of mold, such as sour cream, cheese and pickled vegetables. Clean any moldy areas in your house or have a professional do it. Keep your home dry and less hospitable to mold by using air conditioning in the summer and a dehumidifier. You may also want to avoid going outdoors after it rains.
Risks and Side Effects
Medical treatments for mold allergies often have side effects. A common side effect from nasal corticosteroids is a bloody nose. Some types of antihistamines can make you very drowsy, while overuse of nasal decongestants can actually make your congestion worse. Asthma medications for a mold allergy such as cromolyn may cause a sore throat, headache or stomach pain.