Autumn leaves may be lovely to look at, but did you know they can trigger mould allergy symptoms?
Although many people think of the spring as ‘allergy season’, the weather conditions that autumn brings can cause a whole host of symptoms. These can range from a mild case of the sniffles to full-blown depression.
One of the biggest culprits for autumn allergy symptoms is mould. Mould spores can affect us both indoors and outdoors!
Read on for information on mould, how it can cause allergy symptoms, and how you can reduce your exposure.
What causes the increase in mould spores over autumn?
Weather conditions during late summer and autumn tend to be mild and damp, providing the perfect conditions for mould growth. Increasing winds distribute the spores further afield.
Moulds can live both outdoors and indoors, even in the cleanest of homes. As they live on decaying organic matter, you’ll often find moulds in rotting leaf piles and woodland areas. They are equally happy to live in basements, on house plants, in mattresses, upholstery, carpets and wood. Provided that there is a source of food, moisture and oxygen, moulds will proliferate.
As the weather gets damp and chilly, we tend to close our windows at home and turn the central heating on. The combination of poor ventilation and increased humidity creates an ideal environment for mould to thrive indoors.
What kinds of allergy symptoms can moulds trigger?
There are several thousand different types of moulds. According to expert Dr. Diana Samways, common allergy-inducing species include Alternaria Tenuis, Aspergillus sp., Penicillium sp., and Cladosporium Hervarum.
Mould allergy is the most common cause of a reaction to mould. Some people find that exposure to mould exacerbates their existing allergy symptoms. For example, it can trigger asthma attacks.
Moulds can also cause illness in the absence of an allergy, such as infections or irritant reactions (e.g coughing, runny nose).
Symptoms of mould allergy are varied and individual, and can include:
- Coughing and sneezing
- Runny nose or postnasal drip
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Joint pains
Some people experience psychological symptoms as a result of inhaling mould spores, such as mood swings and depression. Dr. Diana Samways, in her book ‘I’m a patient...get me out of here” explains that mould allergy can sometimes present itself in the form of “paralysing” morning depression, acute fear and panic. She also notes that mould allergy symptoms can sometimes mimic those of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
How to reduce your exposure to mould spores
With tiny particles, measuring around 0.3 microns, moulds are not always visible to the human eye. Therefore, mould spores may be around you without you realising it. You can often smell mould in damp homes.
A good place to start is by controlling the mould levels in environments in which you spend most of your time. For immediate help during mould allergy ‘attacks’, you can read these tips by Dr. Samways.
Do you have a mould problem in your house?
A great starting point is to tackle any leaks or obvious sources of damp in the home. Check the roof, guttering, pipes and walls for any signs of leaks and get them fixed. Wear a face mask when entering areas like basements and cellars. These can be a haven for mould.
Furniture and carpets can harbour moulds, particularly if they have been damp in the past. Remove anything that smells musty and avoid using carpet in bathrooms.
Petri dish home air test kits like MouldCheck will help you to gauge the level of mould you have in a particular room. These are simple to use and the results can be surprising.
Similarly, a hygrometer (humidity meter) will show you the relative humidity (rH) of a given area of your home. Normally, if the rH is over 60% you ought to consider using a dehumidifier. It is important to note that humid conditions can encourage dust mites to proliferate, which can also aggravate allergy symptoms. Be careful not to dry washing indoors or on radiators, as this can increase humidity too. In general, try not to let the relative humidity go below 40% as very dry air can irritate the airways and worsen dry skin conditions.
Most air purifiers will trap mould, but we recommend going one step further and destroying the mould completely! An air steriliser is therefore an ideal choice. The Airfree air sterilisers are particularly good for mould allergy. They use a patented Thermodynamic Sterilizing System to incinerate allergens including mould spores. The Radic8 air sterilisers work slightly differently, filling the air with ‘super oxidants’ to eliminate airborne allergens and irritants.
What about mould outdoors?
Allergy UK recommends avoiding woodland walks in mild, damp conditions. It’s tempting to kick piles of autumn leaves on autumn walks, but this can further distribute millions of mould spores into the air! A face mask can be helpful during outdoor walks, while raking leaves or working in damp conditions.
It can also be helpful to avoid recently cut grass or hedges and compost heaps.
If you’re concerned about mould triggering your allergy symptoms, speak to your GP or an allergy specialist. Learn more about mould allergy on our information page.
Keep mould under control
Disclaimer: Information included in this website is intended for information purposes only and is not to be used as a substitute for consultation with a medical practitioner.