Mold allergies are caused by your body’s reaction to the spores released by fungi. When you breathe them in, they can reach your lungs or stop at the lining of your nose. When your body identifies the invading spores, it over-reacts and sets off an immune system response. Part of this response includes the release of histamine, which is what causes most allergic symptoms.
Telltale signs of a mold allergy are symptoms from July to August, although mold allergies can affect you any time of year; the symptoms tend to resemble those associated with other types of hay fever. They include sneezing, itching eyes and nose, a runny nose, congestion, coughing and watery eyes. If you have asthma, a mold allergy can trigger your asthmatic wheezing and shortness of breath. Mold allergy symptoms tend to set in right away upon exposure to mold, but they can take longer, too.
But just because you react to mold doesn’t mean you have a mold allergy. Mold is known to cause infections, toxic reactions and irritation. A mold-related infection can resemble the flu, or it can lead to skin problems. Meanwhile, the volatile organic compounds found in mold can irritate the mucous membranes in your body and cause symptoms similar to allergies. Along with itchy and watery eyes, a runny nose and a cough, your voice can become hoarse, and you can develop a headache and a rash. However, you can differentiate between irritation and allergies because the allergies will worsen the longer you’re exposed to mold and the more frequently you’re exposed to it, whereas the reactions to irritation stay the same each time. Toxic reactions to mold happen when you eat, drink or breathe in the mycotoxins found in mold. The symptoms mimic those of irritation and allergies, and can also include dizziness, nervousness and trouble concentrating.