Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Sherrie Thai
Direct contact with mould, irritants or allergens will cause inflammation of the skin called allergic contact dermatitis. The rash is a delayed allergic reaction that shows up one or two days after exposure to mould. The rash will vary from person to person and within the same person over time. The rash is uncomfortable, but not contagious.
A rash caused by mould will range from slight irritation with redness to an open wound. The skin will be swollen, red, itchy, dry and warm to the touch; or have red bumps, patches, scales or blisters that ooze pus. Only the skin exposed to the mould will be affected. The affected area's intense itch leads to prolonged scratching resulting in secondary infection, pigment or colour changes, scaring or thick, and leathery skin. This can be prevented with home care.
Don't scratch. Protect the rash with clothes, by wearing gloves at night and trimming your nails. Wash the area exposed to mould and all exposed clothing immediately. Soothe inflamed and itchy skin with anti-itch creams and wet compresses. Wear cotton cloths, keep air temperature cool and take cool oatmeal baths. Use mild cleansers, free of dyes and perfumes, when bathing and immediately after apply a sensitive moisturiser to damp skin. Do not use antiseptic lotion or rubbing alcohol on the rash.
Clearing Up Skin
Home care and discontinuing exposure to mould will clear up the skin within two to four weeks from the last exposure. If mould is in your home, clean it out and remove its water source. You can control mould growth by controlling the moisture in your home. Some spores will remain in the air and dust, but can't grow without water. If skin doesn't clear with mould removal, then remove other allergens and irritants such as soaps, detergents, make-up, deodorant, rough cloths, latex, perfumes, jewellery or plants.
If home care is unsuccessful and you are uncomfortable, distracted and losing sleep from pain or infection, seek a doctor's care. Your primary care doctor may refer you to a dermatologist or allergist. Be prepared to answer questions such as what symptoms are you having, when they started and how long they last, if intermittent. Your doctor will want to know about the mould, where it is, how long it has been there and if you know what kind it is. Your doctor will perform tests.
To determine if mould is the cause of the rash, your doctor will perform patch testing. A small patch containing an allergen is placed on the skin and removed after two days to check for skin reaction. A skin biopsy will rule out other causes of the rash. Your doctor will prescribe corticosteroid cream in mild to moderate cases. In severe cases oral corticosteroids, antihistamines, or immunosuppressant creams will be prescribed. In all cases, the mould must be removed.
- Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Sherrie Thai