A runny or stuffy nose that persists or recurs over time may be due to an allergy to leaf mold, a type of fungi. Strains of mold that grow on downed leaves can live and reproduce in wide temperature ranges, producing health symptoms at most times of the year. Patients must learn the cause of allergic rhinitis in order to successfully treat or prevent health problems. Those who suspect a problem with mold allergens should take note of their symptoms and discuss them with their doctors.
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Leaf molds feed on dead leaves and reproduce by sending spores into the air, to travel, settle and grow. The health symptoms of mold allergies arise when people breathe in these microscopic allergens. Physical symptoms that come on after raking or walking through leaves can be attributed to mold with some certainty. Nevertheless, patients can experience respiratory problems or itching anytime outdoor air carries high levels of invisible mold spores. According to the University of Maryland (UM) Medical Center, skin and blood tests distinguish mold from pollens and other sources of allergies.
The medical condition allergic rhinitis can be classified as seasonal or perennial. Signs of rhinitis that occur in winter after a hard frost, when molds are dormant, may be due to indoor allergens instead, advises the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). Patients who develop outdoor mold allergies in mild climates, however, can easily mistake indoor irritants for the source of their illnesses. Absent seasonal clues, they may blame indoor molds, dust mites or pets for their symptoms. Definitive medical testing may be necessary to clarify a diagnosis.
Rhinitis produces the same health effects whether it occurs in season or year-round. Allergies to leaf molds may first cause itching in the eyes, ears or throat, the UM Medical Center reports. Eyes and noses may become red and fill with fluids. Mold allergies then produce runny noses, postnasal drip and sinus congestion. A dry cough and sore throat may develop.
Untreated mold allergies take a toll on respiratory health. Dark undereye circles indicate extended periods of rhinitis symptoms brought on by sinus inflammation. The Mayo Clinic notes that inhaling mold frequently can result in hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Individuals who work in the landscaping or farming industries, for instance, may acquire chronic lung effects from long-term mold exposure.
Preventing symptoms entails avoiding contact with leaf molds and using medications, reports the AAFA. Allergy patients should avoid gardening and stay indoors in late summer, when weather is humid and mold counts are high. Antihistamine and decongestant medications can provide short-term symptom relief. Ongoing treatment with nasal corticosteroids can prevent allergy symptoms year-round.