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More on Fungal Allergies

Fungal allergies develop when spores of certain fungi cause allergic reactions in people. Mold and mildew are fungi, and is found practically everywhere; outside, in the workplace and even inside our homes. Fungi live off dead plant matter or act as a parasite on other living creatures. Fungi are found in both indoor and outdoor environments.

Everyone is exposed to the same amount of spores but some individuals react more severely to them than others. Those that react to fungi are often those who have a history of mold allergies in their family or those who have everyday allergies or hayfever.

Fungal allergies and normal allergies (household allergies/hayfever) have very similar symptoms. These include sneezing, a runny nose/itchy nose, an itchy palate or itchy ears, congested sinuses or dry, chapped skin.

Doctors often diagnose fungal allergies by checking on the patient’s medical history, performing a skin allergy test (the doctor will prick or scratch the skin with different types of fungi to get a reaction) and a physical examination.

There are many treatments for fungal allergies but further research and evaluation is needed before immunotherapy and other methods can be completely safe and effective.

What more do we know?

Fungal allergies can cause or induce a variety of related conditions. Let’s look at a few:

  1. Allergic asthma may be induced when fungal spores (which are smaller than pollen grains) are inhaled into the lungs. These spores reach the small air sacs inside the lungs where they cause chronic inflammation.
  2. Allergic rhinitis is caused when fungal spores irritate and inflame the mucus membranes that line the sinus cavities. Symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose or blocked nose.
  3. Nail fungus is usually caused when an open cut or wound on your toe or finger gets infected with fungi from bathroom floors/walls or other fungus infested places.
  4. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis (also known as extrinsic allergic alveolitis) is caused when allergens are repeatedly inhaled thereby causing allergic reactions. This condition may lead to chronic disease and permanent lung damage.
  5. Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin associated with allergen IgE and fungi.
  6. Allergic Sinusitis is usually caused when multiple sinuses are affected by fungi. Mycetoma (Fungus balls) can develop in some cases. They vary in size and appear to be blackish-green. Invasive sinusitis can also develop. This is a rapid growing infection which most doctors advising surgery as a treatment. Some forms of this fungal infection can lead to chronic invasive fungal sinusitis. This can cause abnormalities that can be seen on an individual’s face due to erosion of the ethmoid sinuses. Fungal sinusitis should be treated by a professional.
  7. Mycotoxicosis is a disease caused by mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are produced by molds; these mycotoxins impair the immune system.
  8. Patients often have associated asthma with fungal sinusitis.

What types of fungus can cause allergies and the related conditions?
  1. Alternaria fungi cause allergies, fungal rhinitis and allergic asthma.
  2. Ganoderma is a type of fungus that causes fungal allergies.
  3. Aspergillus fungi cause allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS), fungal balls production, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergies, fungal rhinitis and allergic asthma.
  4. Curvularia fungi cause allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS), fungal balls and rhinitis.
  5. Bipolaris type fungi cause allergic sinusitis, fungal ball production, allergies and rhinitis.
  6. Penicillium species cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis, rhinitis and allergic asthma.
  7. Merulius lacrymans fungi, P. Ostreatus fungi and Basidiomycetes Lentinus edodes type fungi cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis.
  8. Candida yeast fungi and Phoma fungi cause fungal allergies, Candida also causes thrush (fungal allergy of the mouth, throat or virgina).
  9. Cladosporium and Epicoccum fungi causes allergies, rhinitis and allergic asthma
  10. Helminthosporium and Aureobasidium fungi cause allergic asthma.
  11. A. Alternatais type fungi cause atopic dermatitis.
  12. Fusarium fungi cause allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS).

Where is fungi found in your home?
  1. Window frames
  2. Black patches in the bathroom
  3. On glass panes
  4. Plastic surfaces
  5. Damp places
  6. Basements
  7. Bathrooms  
  8. Kitchen sinks, floors
  9. At water leaks from roofs
  10. Near water pipes
  11. Any damp/humid places in your home

Fungi outdoors

The majority of fungal species grow outside. Molds grow on decomposing logs and dead leaves, in compost heaps and on vegetation.

Who is at risk of developing fungal allergies?

Health risks are for those who work and live with fungi everyday:

  • People living in a house with too much mold growth.
  • Persons exposed to moldy material at the workplace.
    • Persons who work with cheese and dairy
    • Bakers
    • Wine and beer makers
    • Farmers
    • Carpenters
    • Loggers/ wood cutters
    • Greenhouse caretakers
    • People working in a mill
    • Furniture repair men and women

Fungi can be present in the air almost throughout the year. Some spores are released during dry weather, especially when it is windy. Others are released when it’s foggy or when there is plenty of dew or when humidity is high.

Tips to keep you and your home free from mold and mildew:
  1. Clean the shower floor and bath tub frequently to remove mold
  2. Avoid damp basements
  3. Humidity in your home should be below 50 percent
  4. Remember to clean your dehumidifiers on a regular basis
  5. Close your doors during high pollen forecasts
  6. Use air conditioning for cooling
  7. Seal any leaks to prevent water build-up and dampness
  8. Use an exhaust fan in your bathroom and kitchen to ventilate it and avoid dampness
  9. Have less indoor plants that need watering
  10. Use a heater when cold and add a heating system to any outside wall closets you may have.
  11. Dehumidify the basement or other areas of dampness
  12. Carpets and air-conditioning systems are often havens for fungal spores. Vacuum frequently or replace carpets with hardwood floors or tiles.
  13. Air ducts and filters must also be cleaned regularly to reduce fungal exposure.
  14. Use a mask that fully covers your nose and mouth when cleaning areas that can disperse spores into the air. If you are very sensitive to fungus avoid cleaning or dusting all together.
  15. Treat your allergies. Use medication your doctor has prescribed or use antihistamines, decongestants or homeopathic products.
  16. Don’t leave wet carpets in your kitchen or bathroom, always put them out to dry and wash them.
  17. Scrub the kitchen sink regularly.
  18. Empty out the rubbish bag every time it gets full.
  19. Clean your refrigerator door regularly.
  20. Cover your bedding with plastic, especially if it is made of foam.
  21. Don’t keep old books that are not being used, donate them to the library, recycle them or throw them away as these collect dust.

Fungal allergies can lead to other conditions if not treated appropriately. There is no way you can avoid fungi as they are always present in the air, but taking certain measures like using a filter and humidifier in your home can lessen symptoms.

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