About mould allergy
There are thousands of different species of mould in the UK. Sometimes you can see moulds, such as the varieties that grow on fruit or on bathroom walls, but most of the time they are undetectable to the human eye.
We all breathe in mould spores, but if you have a mould allergy, you may experience certain unpleasant symptoms when exposed to too many spores. These symptoms can include sneezing, wheezing, rhinitis, headaches, a sore throat, rashes and digestive problems.
What many people do not realise, however, is that exposure to mould in sensitive people can cause psychological symptoms as well as, or instead of, the more common symptoms.
Mould and mental health
A Brown University School of Medicine study conducted in 2007 reported a link between depressive disorders in patients and levels of mould in the home. The researchers concluded that those living in very mouldy homes were statistically more likely to be clinically depressed (although it is important to remember that correlation does not equal causation).
Dr. Diana Samways MBBS is herself very allergic to mould, and in her book “I’m a Patient, Get Me Out of Here!” she outlines the psychological symptoms that can come about as a result of mould exposure in allergic patients.
Dr. Samways explains that mood swings, panic attacks, depression (worse in the mornings) and night terrors are just some of the undesirable psychological symptoms that have been reported by sufferers of mould allergy. Combined with general fatigue, IBS-like symptoms and joint pains, mould allergy can be distressing and debilitating.
She writes that, due to the similarities between symptoms of mould allergy and other conditions, it is easily mis-diagnosed and treated as something completely different, while the root cause lurks unaddressed in the sufferer’s home.
For example, mood swings, depression, terror, panic attacks and heart palpitations are sometimes treated with antidepressants or heart drugs, which may lead to long-term dependency.
Identifying a mould problem
There is no official “test” for mould allergy, but there are steps you can take to try to determine whether mould is the cause of your symptoms.
One way to begin identifying mould allergy is by monitoring how your environment links to your symptoms, as mould allergy symptoms can vary dramatically in intensity depending on the environment the sufferer is in.
For example, wind and rain can cause mould allergy symptoms to worsen due to the wind distributing the mould spores and the mould count rising with damp. Similarly, before a thunder storm, mould levels rise drastically, so symptoms may ‘flare up’ then.
Another way to figure out whether mould is causing your health problems is to reduce the mould levels in your home and see whether your symptoms improve. This is a good idea whether or not you eventually come to the conclusion that you have a mould allergy, as breathing in excessive mould spores is unhealthy even for those who are not allergic.
People with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (M.C.S.) are more likely to be allergic to mould as it emits MVOCs (Mould Volatile Organic Compounds) when in an active growth phase. M.C.S. sufferers often experience allergy-like reactions after exposure to such pollutants.
You can measure the mould in your home by using a home test kit like MouldCheck. Upon analysing the results of this, you should be able to see whether or not you have a mould issue in your home that needs to be addressed.
To remove mould spores, an air steriliser such as Airfree or Radic8 is ideal, as they kill the mould spores in the air rather than just trapping them in a filter. A dehumidifier is also a wise choice, to remove humidity which facilitates the growth of mould. Ensure any leaks in the home are resolved by a professional. Our Allergy Sprays are useful accessories to complement these machines.
It is important to note that if you suspect you may have a mould allergy or are experiencing psychological symptoms such as the above, you should see a doctor or mental health care provider in the first instance. Mould is just one of many, many possible causes of depressive disorders, and may not be the direct cause of your symptoms. Although we can provide information based on many years’ experience of dealing with people with allergies, we are unable to give medical advice here.
I'm a Patient... Get me out of Here...Self-Help for Common Illnesses, by Dr. Diana Samways MBBS. Purchase the book here: www.allergydoctor.org.uk