Are you experiencing symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, stuffy nose, red or itching eyes, and fatigue? Have you recently been exposed to black mold in your home, workplace, or garden? You may be experiencing an allergic reaction to black mold mycotoxins.
When black mold releases spores into the air mycotoxins can enter and irritate your sinuses, weakening your immune system. The result: allergy symptoms that have you sniffling, sneezing, and miserable.
Mycotoxin effects can be annoying, painful, or even dangerous. You don’t have to live with the pain and aggravation of black mold allergies. A black mold test may be the first step toward reducing or eliminating your allergy symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions
Black mold, also known as Stachybotrys chartarum, is a blackish-gray mold that flourishes in damp environments.
Common in homes, workplaces, and industrial areas of high humidity, black mold is usually found on, around, or under materials like drywall, carpet, insulation, or subflooring that has been exposed to moisture long enough for the mold to grow.
Mycotoxins are toxic chemicals that exist on spores and small fragments of mold, including black mold. When mold releases these spores, it also releases mycotoxins. Inhaling these mycotoxins can cause allergic reactions, some severe, especially in people who have HIV/AIDS or take immunosuppressant medications.
Some common effects of mycotoxin exposure include:
- Runny nose
- Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
- Skin rash
- Chronic or persistent headaches
- Bleeding in lungs or nose
Rarer symptoms may include:
- Mold-induced asthma: if you’re allergic to mold, inhaling spores may trigger asthma flare-ups
- Allergic fungal sinusitis: may result from an inflammatory reaction to fungus irritating your sinuses
- Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis: a reaction in your lungs that may occur if you have asthma or cystic fibrosis
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis: occurs when spore exposure inflames the lungs
Your doctor will exam you to identify or rule out any other conditions which may be causing your symptoms. Several tests can confirm your allergic reaction to black mold:
- Skin prick test: diluted amounts of suspected allergens (like molds) are applied to your skin through small punctures to check for a raised bump or other allergic reaction
- Blood test: your doctor will draw blood from your arm, expose it to mold, measure immunoglobulin antibodies in your bloodstream, and observe your immune system’s sensitivity to various types of mold, including black mold
Your first line of defense is removing or avoiding the source of the mold to halt your symptoms. Speak to your doctor about the best ways to eliminate mold from your home or workplace.
No certain cure exists for mold allergies, but your doctor may recommend one or more of these treatments to help reduce or eliminate your symptoms:
- Nasal corticosteroids: prescription nasal sprays that help prevent and treat inflammations include fluticasone (Flonase), ciclesonide (Omnaris), mometasone (Nasonex), triamcinolone (Nasacort AQ), and budesonide (Rhionocort Aqua)
- Over-the-counter Antihistamines: medications that can reduce runny nose, itching, and sneezing include loratadine (Claritin, Alavert), fexofenadine (Allegra), and cetirizine (Zyrtec Allergy)
- Prescription antihistamines: azelastine (Astelin, Astepro) and olopatadine (Patanase)
- Over-the-counter oral decongestants: Sudafed and Drixoral clear sinuses
- Decongestant nasal sprays: Afrin or similar brands reduce sinus swelling
- Montelukast: a tablet (Singulair) that blocks leukotrienes, the immune system chemicals that cause excess mucus
- Immunotherapy: a series of allergy shots useful for certain types of mold allergies
- Nasal lavage: rinsing sinuses daily with sterile salt water to clear irritants and open nasal passages
Side effects of most treatments are mild and rare:
- Nasal corticosteroids: nosebleeds, nasal dryness
- Antihistamines: drowsiness, bitter taste in mouth, nasal dryness
- Oral decongestants: drowsiness, elevated blood pressure, insomnia, appetite loss, heart palpitations, anxiety
- Decongestant nasal sprays: headache, insomnia, nervousness, rebound congestion (congestion that occurs when sprays are used longer than 3-4 days)
- Nasal lavage: sinus dryness, nosebleeds, can cause infection if unsterile water is used
If allergies or asthma run in your family, you’re more likely to develop these conditions.
Mold may grow in your home if the air is too damp or not well-ventilated. Some causes of black mold in the home include:
- High humidity levels (above 50% regularly)
- Inadequate fresh air ventilation
- Improperly managed flooding or flood damage (especially to drywall, flooring, and furniture)
- Cracks in walls, foundation, or pipes
Speak with a home repair or mold expert to remove risk factors or to determine whether your house is at risk for mold growth.
Working in environments where mold is more likely to be present can cause you to experience allergy symptoms. Common mold-infested workplaces include:
- Lumber yards
- Carpenter shops
- Furniture manufacturers