Ask yourself the following to see if you are allergic to mold:
■ Do you sneeze or feel stuffy when you walk into a damp or musty house or basement or a damp barn or garage? Outdoor molds are a problem when raking or walking through or playing in the leaves in the autumn. Fallen leaves become moldy very quickly. If you enjoy camping or sleeping outdoors, mold allergies may be a problem, especially when it rains and is wet or in the fall.
■ Do you feel sick when you return to or clean out a summerhome or old cabin after it has been closed for a season or two?
■ Do you feel sick when around hay in the barn or on hayrides? Often there is a considerable amount of mold around hay and cut grass.
■ Do plants or the garden make you feel stuffy? Often there is a lot of mold around our gardens because the soil is moist.
■ Do damp seasons cause you to feel miserable? Although most molds grow outside, indoor molds grow near wet areas like garbage bins, food storage areas, in wallpaper, and in any area with increased humidity, such as damp basements, washrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, and rooms where there has been a leak and moisture persists. Carpeting and floor mats are excellent places for molds to grow when they are damp. Damp windowsills and sitecases are also attractive to mold.
Avoidance and reducing exposure to mold are the best ways to help prevent allergic reactions.
But as we’ve seen, fungal sinusitis is not merely an allergic phenomenon. It now appears that fungal sinusitis, once thought to be a
rare disease in patients with severe immunological deficiencies, is much more common in patients who appear to have normal immunity. These people have a predisposition causing their bodies to have an inflammatory reaction to the mold. For example, many people experience sinus pain and infections in the fall: It is now thought that these seasonally signaled infections are due to mold caused by exposure to decaying leaves. Whether the reaction is immunologic or allergic, and it can be both, people need to be aware of these triggers and how to treat them most effectively.
It may be possible to treat mold allergies by using allergy desensitization management (allergy shots). Although it is virtually impossible to test for all types of fungi, we have the ability to treat patients for a fairly large number of them. Other treatments besides allergy desensitization include topical as well as systemic steroid treatment and antihistamines.