What is mould allergy?
Moulds are fungi which release tiny particles called spores into the air, and it is these spores that cause allergic symptoms in people when they are breathed in. The black spots on the walls and ceilings of damp rooms are moulds; the white and black furry layers on decaying bread and other foods are moulds. Even mushrooms are a type of fungus!
Mould spores are released all year around and are found in both damp indoor and outdoor environments. Moulds are commonly found in kitchens (fridges), bathrooms, the soil of house plants and in areas where humidifiers and tumble driers are used. Outdoor moulds live in rotting leaves, grass cuttings, compost heaps and rotting seaweed. Moulds love warm humid places and spore counts tend to peak in spring and autumn. They are found in higher concentrations in coastal areas and especially in the subtropical parts of the country (KwaZulu-Natal).
Mould allergy occurs when someone whose immune system is oversensitive sees the mould spores as allergens and reacts to them. People who are sensitive to these mould spores may develop asthma, hay fever, itchy eyes and eczema. Up to 20% of asthmatic patients may be allergic to moulds.