Exposure to black mould can cause a range of symptoms in sensitive people. Because moulds are present both indoors and outdoors, they can be hard to avoid, particularly during rainy times of the year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with the greatest risk of developing problems due to mould exposure include those with suppressed immune systems, allergies, asthma or other breathing conditions.
Warm, humid conditions encourage the growth of mould, a form of fungus that usually appears as black or green spots. Mold is often found indoors in areas of high humidity and moisture, such as bathrooms or basements or areas where there has been a water leak, and outdoors in damp, shady areas or in places where leaves are decomposing.
Symptoms of a mould allergy include cough, runny nose, headaches, rashes, nose bleeds, nasal congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, sinusitis, and itchy eyes, nose and throat. If you have asthma and a mould allergy, exposure to mould spores can cause your asthma to flare up and you may experience wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing. Fungal infections can occur if you have a suppressed immune system or pre-existing lung disease. The severity of the symptoms usually depends on the degree and length of exposure and your sensitivity to mould. In a few cases, people have developed memory loss or bleeding in the lungs after exposure to black mould, although a link to mould as the cause of these conditions has never been proven, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
A mould allergy is diagnosed based on your symptoms, a physical examination and one or more tests. A blood test may be used to measure antibodies in your blood that respond to mould. A skin prick test may be recommended to determine if you are allergic to mould. During the skin prick test, tiny amounts of mould and other allergens are placed just under the skin with a needle. If you are allergic to a particular substance, a small red bump develops.
Treatment for black mould allergies includes the use of antihistamines to reduce the symptoms of runny nose and sneezing. Nasal corticosteroids can be helpful in treating the inflammation caused by mould spores. Decongestants and nasal sprays can also be effective in reducing symptoms. Singulair, a drug effective in treating allergies, may be prescribed if over-the-counter medications don't help. Allergy shots may be somewhat useful if you have a mould allergy, although these shots are more helpful in treating such conditions as hay fever allergy.
While it is impossible to avoid all exposure to mould spores, you can take some steps to reduce your exposure and avoid the unpleasant symptoms associated with black mould. Freshly cut grass, wooded areas and compost piles are likely to have high levels of mould and should be avoided. The CDC recommends keeping humidity levels in your home between 40 and 60 per cent and using an air-conditioner or dehumidifier during humid months to reduce mould. Mold should be cleaned up promptly, although if you have a mould allergy, clean-up should be left to others who don't have the allergy. Wet carpets and upholstery should be replaced, as it is very difficult to rid these items of mould.