By David L. Schneider M.D., Allergist & Immunologist
Mold is a type of fungus that grows wherever water and moisture is present along with warm temperatures. In their reproductive cycle, molds make spores rather than seed like plants. These spores quickly become airborne just like plant pollens. When people with mold allergy inhale the spores, allergy symptoms are triggered. New Orleans and Hammond have an ideal climate for mold as southern Louisiana is so humid. In fact, according to an Associated Press article, New Orleans is where mold’s health risks were first recognized: "A Louisiana State University allergist, the late Dr. John Salvaggio, described at medical meetings in the 1970s what he called “New Orleans asthma,” an illness that filled hospital emergency rooms each fall with people who couldn’t breathe. He linked it to high levels of mold spores that appeared in the humid, late summer months."
Unfortunately, one of the factors that makes diagnosing a mold allergy a challenge is that mold can affect people in a number of different ways. If you suspect that you may have a mold allergy, a critical first step is to see an experienced American Board of Allergy and Immunology (ABAI) physician who has a deep understanding of mold allergies and takes a systemic approach to evaluating and treating the underlying condition rather than simply managing the symptoms.
Our clinics have seen many patients over the years who suffer from medical problems related to mold allergy. In many cases, people that have come to us with symptoms had no idea that they were allergic to mold. Symptoms vary from person to person and can range from minor to very serious. Symptoms can include sneezing; runny or stuffy nose; throat or inner ear discomfort, hives; itchy eyes; swollen eyelids; coughing, wheezing (a whistling sound when a person breathes) or trouble breathing. A very common condition that is induced by mold spores is allergic rhinitis, an inflammation of the nasal membranes that is characterized by sneezing, nasal congestion, nasal itching, and an excessive discharge of mucus from the nose. An article from the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology entitled " Indoor Dampness and Molds Increase the Risk of Rhinitis Worldwide" notes that "allergic rhinitis is a common disease among children as well as adults, the estimated prevalence being 10-40% and in some general population-based studies even higher than 50%." Also, if mold spores reach the lungs, asthma or another serious disorder called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis can be triggered.
Allergic reactions may happen immediately or develop after a period of time after exposure. If you suspect that you may have a mold allergy, contact one of our clinics for an evaluation by one of our ABAI board-certified physicians.