What Is a Mold Spore Count?

mold spore count is a method of measuring mold spores in the air. Pollen counts are usually done at the same time to provide a general guide to air quality for people with environmental allergies.

Molds and mildew are tiny fungi that differ from plants or animals in how they reproduce and grow. The “seeds,” called spores, are spread by the wind and float in the air like pollen. Mold spores can be found almost anywhere, including soil, plants and rotting wood.

There are many varieties of mold but only a several cause asthmatic or allergic reactions. Cladosporium, Aureobasidium, Alternaria, Aspergillus, Helminthosporium, Mucor, Epicoccum, Fusarium and Penicillium are the most frequent offenders. When viewed under a microscope, mold spores can be identified by their growth patterns.

A mold spore count can vary quickly and generally with the weather. Some mold varieties have peak levels for releasing mold in breezy, dry conditions while others flourish in high humidity or even in rainy periods.

What Are the Symptoms of Mold Allergies?

Hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis) affects more than 35 million Americans. When mold spores come in contact the lining of the nose mold allergy symptoms result. Mold allergies cause sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, coughing, itchiness in your eyes, nose, throat, or ears and dark circles under the eyes.

When mold spores enter the lungs, they can cause severe asthma or another serious illness called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. See Is Mold A Dangerous Health Risk?

petri dish shows mold spore count How is a Mold Spore Count Conducted?

Every year during allergy season (March 1st – October 15th) the Air Quality Management Section (AQM) collects and reports pollen and mold counts three days a week. The report includes a color-coded rating chart that shows the level of hay fever and asthma symptoms that may be related to mold and pollen exposures. The National Allergy Bureau (NAB) is the section of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Aeroallergen Network that is responsible for reporting current pollen and mold spore levels to the public.

Currently, there are 78 counting stations in the United States and three in Canada. AAAAI is a U.S.-based  medical specialty representing clinical immunologists, allergists, clinical immunologists, and other health professionals involved in researching and/or treating health issues such as anaphylaxis, asthma, atopic dermatitis/eczema and allergic rhinitis.

To capture airborne particulates, a gel-covered plastic plate is spun in the air for a specific speed for a 24-hour time period. Pollens and mold spores that have been collected on the gel are examined under a microscope and are identified by a variety of characteristics. A formula is then used to establish An analyst then determines that day’s particle count also called a mold spore count) by calculating with an established formula.

Though it is still the best tool we have, mold spore count reports can never cover current conditions, only the previous day’s conditions. Counts can be off  due to poor analytical skills or poor sampling.

Generally monitoring services provide  ”total” counts without analysing which species of  mold spores are active or what their concentrations may be. The published count may not relate to your allergies but you may find the overall patterns helpful. Often you can judge for yourself what pollens or molds may effect you during specific times of year.