Mold lives on dead, decaying material and thrives in warm, damp moist places. Mold can also thrive outdoors. Outdoor mold is usually found in the brown patches of dead grass or on the decaying leaves of autumn. Those with mold allergies may experience a stuffy nose, itchy eyes, itchy skin or shortness of breath. Mold spore season begins in the spring, peaks in the summer and plateaus in the fall.
Mold is fungus that works to break down dead material and return nutrients to the environment. Mold grows by digesting plant or animal matter, such as leaves, wood, paper, dirt, and food and spreads by releasing tiny, lightweight spores that travel through the air.
Mold can also exist on foods. If you have a mold allergy, avoiding all exposure to mold may not be possible. However, you can reduce your risk of reaction by choosing your foods carefully. Check all foods for signs of mold before you eat them. Do not smell foods to see if they are spoiled because inhaling mold spores can set off an allergic reaction.
Common food sources of mold include:
- Vinegar and foods containing vinegar, such as salad dressing, catsup, and pickles
- Sour cream, sour milk, and buttermilk
- Meat or fish more than 24 hours old
- Breads and other food made with yeast
- Pickled and smoked meats and fish
- Dried fruits such as dates, prunes, figs, and raisins
- Soy sauce
- Hot dogs, sausages
- Canned juices
Mold need food and water sources in order to thrive usually in the form of carbohydrate materials, such as wood or cellulose. Mold grows in units called mycelium and reproduce through the formation of spores which frequently become airborne can cause allergic disease.
People can develop fungal infections of various types, especially those with compromised immune systems. Molds are also well known to cause various allergic diseases, such as allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma.
The following are common types of airborne mold spores:
- Alternaria: outdoor mold; can be associated with severe asthma.
- Cladosporium: the most common airborne outdoor mold.
- Aspergillus: indoor and outdoor mold; also associated with allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis.
- Penicillium: indoor mold; not associated with antibiotic allergy.
- Helminthosporum: found in warmer climates.
- Epicoccum: found in grassland and agricultural areas.
- Fusarium: found on rotting plants.
- Aureobasidium: outdoor mold, usually found on paper, lumber and painted surfaces.
- Phoma: outdoor mold, common during wet periods.
- Smuts: found in agricultural areas.
- Rhizopus and Mucor: found on decaying leaves and damp indoor areas. Airborne forms of these molds are less common.
- Yeasts: found during wet periods in agricultural areas.