Everlywell at-home Indoor & Outdoor Allergy Test, which tests for mold and other common allergens

Mold allergy symptoms and testing

Medically reviewed on August 1, 2022 by Jillian Foglesong, MD. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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An allergic reaction is a normal bodily response that occurs when your immune system perceives a foreign invader as a threat. As a defense mechanism, your body triggers various immune responses to expel, contain, or destroy the offending agent.

When you have a mold allergy, it’s a sign that your body is having an adverse reaction to indoor mold spores that you’ve inhaled. Your immune response might present as itchiness, watery eyes, sneezing, or coughing. But if you have a pronounced allergy or an underlying medical condition like asthma, your allergy symptoms can become quite severe.

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for a mold allergy. Avoiding settings and situations where mold growth is present is the best to keep your allergy in check. That said, knowing which signs and symptoms are indicators of mold sensitivity and allergy is the best way to identify and manage an attack.

What are the symptoms of a mold allergy?

Mold allergy symptoms are most similar to allergic rhinitis, which refers to a runny nose. Identifying a mold allergy can be difficult since the symptoms can overlap with the symptoms of other conditions, such as allergies to pollen, dust, pet dander, or even a common cold. [1]

That being said, rhinitis symptoms most commonly associated with a mold allergy include:

  • Itchy nose
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing

During an allergic reaction to mold, you may also experience coughing or watery eyes. You may also develop dry, scaly patches of skin. For people with asthma, a mold allergy can be very dangerous. Airborne mold spores can trigger asthma symptoms in addition to the symptoms of an allergic reaction, which can complicate both conditions. This is what’s known as mold-induced asthma attack, which may cause coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. [1]

What complications can arise?

Rhinitis symptoms, coughing, and itchy eyes may occur very soon after mold exposure or after some time has passed. Fortunately, an allergic reaction to mold is rather mild for most people.

However, in some cases, mold allergy symptoms can become quite severe and lead to serious complications, such as:

  • Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis – Bloody coughing, fever, and general weakness are symptoms of this lung condition, which can lead to permanent lung damage. [2] Although it’s most common in people with asthma or cystic fibrosis, it’s caused by an immune response to a fungus that has entered the lungs. People with certain allergic conditions are also at increased risk of this condition.
  • Allergic fungal sinusitis – There is some overlap between people with mold allergies and people with this chronic sinus condition. [3] It’s caused by an allergic reaction to fungi and, in the long term, can lead to loss of smell, vision, or eyeball displacement.
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis – When you have respiratory allergies to things like mold, you could have a severe immune response that results in lung inflammation. The initial symptoms of this condition are flu-like, but in chronic cases, pulmonary fibrosis can develop. [4]

What causes a mold allergy?

It’s difficult to say why an individual develops a given allergy. In some cases, genetics can play a role. In others, restricted diets or other factors may contribute to a mold allergy. However, an allergy is often triggered when your immune system attempts to fight off a foreign substance—in this case, mold allergens.

As mentioned above, an allergic reaction is triggered when your body reacts to a foreign substance that it perceives as a threat. When this happens, your body has only one goal: to remove the threat by producing antibodies. This is true with any type of allergy, although the symptoms can vary.

When it comes to a mold allergy, the process is as follows:

  • Microscopic mold spores enter your system through the air.
  • Your body identifies the mold spores as invasive.
  • Your body releases antibodies that kill the spores and cause allergy symptoms.

What are the risk factors for developing a mold allergy?

As with most allergies, anyone can develop an allergy to mold. But certain factors can put you at greater risk of a mold allergy, such as:

  • You have a family history of allergies – Many allergies are passed down through family lines, so if your relatives have mold or other allergies, you’re more likely to have one of your own. Additionally, a family history of asthma may increase your chances.
  • You have sustained mold exposure – If you live or work in an environment where you’re regularly exposed to mold, you may have a greater chance of developing an allergy.
  • Your living conditions promote mold – Certain living conditions can increase the presence of mold in your home, making you and your family more susceptible to developing an allergy. Humidity levels above 50%, homes that have experienced excessive moisture, and poorly ventilated buildings are all risk factors.

How to prevent mold allergies

Although there’s no cure for a mold allergy, it’s important to take steps to prevent an allergic reaction. This is especially true if you have other medical conditions like asthma that can worsen due to an allergic reaction.

Fortunately, there are ways to minimize your risk of encountering mold spores. Here are a few tips:

  • Make it hard for mold to grow – Mold loves indoor humidity and it thrives in damp, moist environments, so keep your home as dry as possible. That means fixing any leaks or broken pipes, ventilating areas that experience a lot of moisture like the bathroom and using a dehumidifier.
  • Keep filters clean – The filters on your furnace and air conditioner should be kept clean to prevent the growth and circulation of mold spores. You should also consider using special HEPA filters designed to eliminate mold spores before they circulate in the air and worsen your allergies.
  • Avoid carpet in damp areas – If you’re thinking of carpeting your bathroom, basement, or any other area of your home that’s prone to moisture, think again. Damp carpet is a breeding ground for mold.

If mold exposure occurs in an environment where you don’t have the power to make decisions, such as work, wearing a face mask may help mitigate your risk of experiencing an allergic reaction or manage your mold allergy symptoms, specifically during the late spring and early fall when outdoor mold counts are high.

How are mold allergies treated?

Prevention is the best treatment for mold allergy symptoms. However, no matter how diligent you are about keeping your environment free of mold, it isn’t always possible to completely limit your exposure.

When your mold allergy is diagnosed, your healthcare provider will discuss your options for treatments when a reaction does occur. Depending on your health history, your options may include:

  • Antihistamines – This medication blocks histamine, the chemical your immune system releases that causes rhinitis symptoms like runny nose, itching, and sneezing.
  • Decongestant nasal sprays – Oxymetazoline sprays can help increase nasal reactivity and shrink the swollen blood vessels in your nose that lead to congestion. [5]
  • Nasal corticosteroids – Usually available as a nasal spray, these hormones help reduce nasal inflammation, which can help with sneezing, congestion, and runny hose. [6]
  • Oral decongestants – Over-the-counter medications like Sudafed may be recommended in minor reactions to help alleviate certain mold allergy symptoms like nasal congestion.

Immunotherapy is another option for treating mold allergies. This is a type of ongoing treatment that helps manage many different types of allergies. Typically, it requires a series of shots. However, immunotherapy is only available for specific types of mold allergies—consult with your healthcare provider to learn more.

Everlywell—healthcare at home

Because mold allergy symptoms can be indistinguishable from the symptoms of other allergic reactions, it isn’t always easy to know whether the congestion you’re experiencing is caused by mold or another allergen.

For that reason, the first step to dealing with a mold allergy is diagnosis. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to test for mold and other allergies without scheduling an appointment with your healthcare provider.

The Everlywell At-Home Indoor & Outdoor Allergy Test measures your immune response to 40 of the most common allergens inside and outside the home, including four different kinds of mold. It’s the easy, convenient way to identify your personal allergen risks—and the best way to avoid those allergens going forward.

With Everlywell, there’s no need to stay in the dark when it comes to your overall health. All of our at-home tests include clear directions and all the supplies you need to conduct a safe and accurate at-home test, plus prepaid return postage so you can easily send it to a CLIA-certified lab for analysis by a licensed physician.

Now is the time to make choices that lead to a healthier tomorrow—let Everlywell show you how.

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  1. Mayo Clinic. Mold Allergy – Symptoms and Causes. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  2. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA). URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  3. Cedars Sinai. Allergic Fungal Sinusitis. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  4. American Lung Association. Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis Symptoms and Diagnosis. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  5. PubMed. Effect on the nasal mucosa of long-term treatment with oxymetazoline, benzalkonium chloride, and placebo nasal sprays. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
  6. National Health Service. Steroid Nasal Spray. URL. Accessed August 1, 2022.
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