Moulds can attack nearly all materials and develop especially in damp places. Sufferers from mould allergy experience allergic runny nose, streaming eyes, cough and shortness of breath.
Moulds are thread-like micro-fungi – they occur all over the world and grow particularly in places where there is moisture. If living spaces are infested with mould, it must be removed quickly. It may pose a health risk.
The most important known allergens among fungi are Aspergillus species, Alternaria alternata, Cladosporium species and Penicillium species, which all belong to the category of moulds. Moulds are found all over the world, but predominantly in nature, mainly in the soil, in dead organic matter. Indoors moulds develop in places where it is damp, such as areas affected by leaks, in masonry cracks or when the relative air humidity is high. Poorly maintained ventilation systems, air humidifiers or decorative fountains and a lot of plants in a room can also lead to a mould infestation.
Mould allergy, like other respiratory allergies, is manifest as allergic runny nose, streaming eyes, cough and shortness of breath and is frequently accompanied by asthma. As well as allergic reactions, moulds also cause irritation of the airways, the mucous membranes of the eyes and the skin.
The growth of mould is often associated with a distinctively musty smell of earth, damp and mushrooms, which additionally impairs well-being.
It is not easy to make the diagnosis because there is a lack of good allergen extracts. Nevertheless, investigations with an allergy specialist are important so that a diagnosis can be made and possible treatment measures decided.
Any fungal infestation in living areas must be removed rapidly and properly. It is always important to get rid of the cause, hence eradicate the damp problem. Otherwise the mould will quickly reappear. People with health problems should not remove even small patches of mould growth. Before the mould is cleared and in the weeks following its clearance, rooms should also be aired frequently and dust should be removed.
It is estimated that about one to ten per cent of the Swiss population are sensitized to moulds.