Mold is a common occurrence in many homes, and it can have negative effects on those who are exposed to the fungus. Many people often wonder if mold can make them sick. While mold is found virtually everywhere, elevated exposure can be particularly dangerous to certain groups of individuals — such as children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.
Mold as an Irritant
Frequently, mold is a general irritant, and it can cause many uncomfortable symptoms — like watery eyes, rashes, stuffed nose, and a sore throat. Irritation of the nose, or vasomotor rhinitis, is the most common ailment associated with mold, and the symptoms are similar to allergic rhinitis. The most efficient way to treat the issue is to avoid the irritant, which would mean locating and eradicating the mold.
Asthma can worsen with exposure to mold, and it can prompt condition in those who did not previously suffer from asthma. The treatment of mold-induced asthma is similar to regular asthma. It is vital that the source of the mold is eliminated, and the sufferer should follow their doctor-ordered regimen of medication.
Allergic Fungal Sinusitis
In those who have a greater sensitivity to mold, it can cause a reaction called allergic fungal sinusitis, or AFS. AFS occurs when fungal debris and mucin develop in the sinus cavities, and it causes a blockage in the infected sinus. This disorder is prevalent in those who suffer from allergic rhinitis. The allergen, mold, is located inside of the sufferer’s sinus cavities, so surgery is required to remove it. There is a high recurrence rate of the illness when it develops, but it can be managed by immunotherapy and anti-inflammatory medication.
Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis
Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis is an allergic and inflammatory response to mold. It is essentially the immune system’s exaggerated reaction to the material, and an infected individual can experience coughing, shortness of breath, and severe wheezing. Cases of the disease can vary from mild to severe; a person with a mild case may only experience coughing, but severe cases may include the fungus being found in the lungs.
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is a condition in which the lung becomes inflamed, and it is initiated by the immune system’s response to small, airborne particles — bacteria, mold, and other inorganic matter. Acute hypersensitivity pneumonitis occurs 4-12 hours after heavy exposure to a fungus. Its symptoms are fever, chills, coughing, shortness of breath, and body aches. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis can, also, be a chronic condition, and it can leave permanent scarring in the lungs. Chronic hypersensitivity is usually attributed to long-term exposure to the offending particles.
Mold and Weakened Immune Systems
Mold is a major health risk for anyone, but the risk increases for people with weakened or compromised immune systems. The elderly are at a higher risk for developing mold-related conditions, as their immune systems have grown weaker as they aged. They can develop symptoms quicker than those with a healthy immune system; an elderly person can experience severe health problems — such as renal disorders, certain cancers, and pulmonary problems. The age of the person and the amount of exposure can be a factor in the severity of the symptoms.
Much like the elderly, children have a greater sensitivity to mold because their immune systems are not fully developed. Children do not have to be exposed to mold for large quantities of times to experience symptoms. Children will suffer from similar symptoms as healthy adults, but they have a greater chance of developing neurological symptoms — like confusion, shortened attention span, memory problems, and anxiety and depression, among others.
Immunocompromised individuals are those who are the most impacted by mold. In addition to the danger posed by mycotoxins, mold can grow in the body and on the skin of those who have a weakened immune system. The infections can cause irritation and inflammation, respiratory distress, and organ failure.
Chronic Exposure, Mycotoxins, and Toxicity
Chronic exposure to certain molds can lead to toxicity. The symptoms of mold toxicity are flu-like symptoms, chronic bronchitis, headaches, chronic fatigue, dermatitis, bleeding in the lungs, tightness in the chest, difficulty in focusing the eyes, and other neurological symptoms.
Mycotoxins are responsible for many of the health problems caused by mold. Mycotoxins can be taken into the body through ingestion, skin contact, and inhalation. Mycotoxins are distributed when a mold source in disturbed, and they are dissolved into the cardiovascular and lymphatic systems. The dissolved toxins can inhibit protein synthesis, damage macrophage systems, prevent the expelling of particles from the lungs, and increase sensitivity to other infections.
There are multiple opinions concerning what causes toxicity symptoms. Many experts believe the majority of those who suffer from mold toxicity really have an allergy to mold; however, the serious symptoms some victims exhibit cannot be attributed to merely an allergy. There is evidence that the chemicals of certain mycotoxins are directly linked to disease.
Steps to Combat Mold and Mold Toxicity
If a person believes they have symptoms related to mold exposure, it is vital they go to the doctor. A health professional can verify if their symptoms are related to mold exposure, or if they can be attributed to another condition. If their symptoms are linked to the fungus, the person would need to limit exposure; this may mean living in another location until the problem is eradicated.
Mold grows where moisture is present, and a person would need to remove all sources of moisture from their home to prevent the growth of mold. Any leaks would need to be repaired, and a humidifier would be vital for limiting humidity in the air. An inspection by a reputable company would need to be conducted to identify the type of mold, and the best way to treat it. Any mold should, then, be removed, and the affected area would need to be cleaned and repaired.