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Author:  Australian Allergy CentreSeptember 25, 2015

Mould Allergy

Moulds are microscopic fungi, which unlike plants, are unable to produce their own food from sunlight and air. They are made up of clusters of filaments, and live on plant and animal matter, which they decompose for their nourishment.

Moulds are among the most widespread living organism, with many different varieties. Many mould reproduce by releasing spores into the air, which then settle on organic matter and grow into new mould clusters. These airborne mould spores are far more numerous than pollen grains, and when inhaled can produce allergic rhinitis symptoms in susceptible individuals.

Moulds can be found both indoors and outdoors. Unlike pollens, moulds do not have a limited season. Moulds flourish in damp, dark and warm areas where there is poor ventilation. Mould spores produced outside are widely dispersed in the air, and can enter the home. Other moulds are produced within the home.

Manifestations of Mould Allergy

- Symptoms of allergic rhinitis such as sneezing, runny nose, blocked nose or wheezing
– Exacerbation of asthma,chronic cough
– Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis such as red, watery, itchy eyes
– An urticarial rash (red, itchy and swollen) at the site where the individual has come into contact with mould.
– Headaches
– Tiredness

Controlling mould and condensation in and around the home

Mould is often found within bathrooms, kitchens, cluttered storage or basement areas, flooded areas, plumbing pipes and outdoors in humid environments. Walls, timber, carpet, furniture and fabrics can harbour mould if they stay damp for extended periods of time.

The main ways for controlling condensation and mould are ventilation, heating, insulation and removal.

VENTILATION
Open windows and doors
– Install exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms
– Leave windows open/consider installing ventilation around appliances producing moisture such as clothes dryers and stoves.

HEATING
Keep indoor moisture low, ideally between 30-50%. Humidity meters are relatively inexpensive and very effective.
– Maintain low constant heat when the weather is cold or wet.
– Install heat globes for heating in the bathroom.

INSULATION
Condensation forms more easily on cold surfaces. Improving insulation can assist in warming these surfaces.
– Insulate hot and cold surfaces such as water pipes.

REMOVAL
ERADICATE MOULD WHEN IT OCCURS. It is harder to remove the longer it has been there. Killing but not removing mould can lead mould to grow back.
– Do not dry brush the area as this can release spores in to the air which can spread mould further and stimulate an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals.
– 3% tea tree oil or 80% white fermented vinegar solutions are effective for treating mould. Bleach is not effective in killing mould.

General Household Maintenance

THE BATHROOM
– Keep the bathroom well ventilated and dry. Fitting an exhaust fan may be necessary.
– Towels and face cloths should be washed every couple of days and dried between use. Towels should be placed on a heated towel rail or out in the sun to dry.
– Do not allow mould to firm in the shower recess, shower curtain or on the walls of the shower. Watch out for mould growth around the bath and basin areas.

THE KITCHEN
– Ensure fruit in fruit bowls and all refrigerated food does not go mouldy.
– Avoid storing food at room temperature for more than 72 hours, especially if it is completely enclosed in plastic.
– Keep the fridge drip-tray clean.
– Do not let bread go mouldy. Keep bread in a container, the fridge or the freezer.
– Keep foods as fresh as possible. Monitor dried fruits and foods in the pantry. Utilise airtight containers so that any potential moulds are contained.

LIVING AREAS AND BED ROOMS
– Ensure living areas and bedrooms are well ventilated.
– Let the sun into your home by opening curtains and blinds. Consider installing sky lights in darker areas.
– Minimise the number of indoor plants. Keep potting mix fresh as this will grow mould spores very readily.
– Do not allow mattresses to stay damp from bed wetting. Protective bedding which is waterproof is a good option.
– Carpets tend to hold mould spores and favour mould growth, particularly if the carpet has been damp at some stage. Remove musty carpet rather than cleaning it if possible.
– Avoid accumulating piles of papers, books, old newspapers etc., as these will absorb moisture and encourage mould growth.
– Be mindful of mould growth in damp areas where there is poor air circulation, for example on south facing walls or behind furniture.
– Allow ventilation in wardrobes. If the wardrobe is affected by mould growth, remove mould, allow to completely dry, investigate the source and treat as soon as possible.

IN THE GARDEN
In the garden moulds are especially prevalent in shady, damp areas and on decaying leaves or vegetation. Their growth is encouraged by warmth and high humidity.
– Avoid heavy vegetation around and over the house. Remove climbing plants.
– Keep the yard free of fallen leaves and other garden debris. Ensure the compost is kept away from the house and remains well covered.
– Avoid the use of bark and mulches around plants or in gardens as these will encourage significant mould growth.
– Do not let the building foundation stay wet. Enable drainage with roof guttering and slope the ground away from the foundation of the building.
– Clean roof gutters regularly.
– Down pipes should drain away from the house.

How is Mould Allergy diagnosed?

Mould Allergy can be diagnosed by a skin prick test or allergen specific RAST blood test.

What can be done to treat Mould Allergy?

The management and treatment of mould allergy, like any other allergy, will depend upon the severity of the individual's symptoms. Treatment options include:
– Minimise exposure to mould.
– The administration of oral anti-histamines or nasal sprays.
– Immunotherapy to reduce sensitivity to mould.