What is mold allergy?

Updated: Dec 02, 2020
  • Author: Shih-Wen Huang, MD; Chief Editor: Harumi Jyonouchi, MD  more...
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People are exposed to aeroallergens in various settings, both at home and at work. Fungi are ubiquitous airborne allergens and are important causes of human diseases, especially in the upper and lower respiratory tracts. These diseases can occur in persons of various ages.

Exposure to molds can cause human disease through several well-defined mechanisms. In addition, many new mold-related illnesses have been hypothesized in recent years that remain largely or completely unproven. Concern about mold exposure and its effects are so common that all health care providers are frequently faced with issues regarding these real and asserted mold-related illnesses.

Fungi as aeroallergens

Airborne spores and other fungi particles are ubiquitous in nonpolar landscapes, especially among field crops, and often form the bulk of suspended biogenic debris. The term mold is often used synonymously with the term fungi. A definition more precise than this specifies that molds lack macroscopic reproductive structures but may produce visible colonies. Respiratory illness in subjects exposed to rust and dark-spored imperfect fungi was described more than 60 years ago, and human sensitization to diverse fungi is now well recognized. Because fungus particles are commonly derived from wholly microscopic sources, exposure hazards are assessed by directly sampling a suspect atmosphere in most circumstances. Because of their small size, fungal emanations present special collection requirements to ensure particle viability for culture-based studies.

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