What Are Symptoms And Signs Of Mold Exposure
Molds produce irritating substances that may act as allergy-causing substances in sensitive individuals. Furthermore, some molds produce toxic substances known as mycotoxins, but mold itself is not poisonous or toxic. The term “toxic mold,” therefore, refers to the fact that certain kinds of mold can produce mycotoxins. The conditions under which some molds produce toxins are not understood, and the presence of mold, even a mold that is capable of producing toxins, does not always imply that toxins are being produced or that a health risk or problem is present. Mold may not cause any health problems, or it may lead to allergy or other symptoms in people, including adults and children, who are sensitive to molds.
Allergic reactions to mold are the most common health effects of mold and are therefore the greatest health risk related to mold. Allergic reactions may happen immediately or develop after a period following exposure. Both growing mold and mold spores may lead to allergic reactions. Symptoms and signs of mold allergy may include
Mold or mold spores may cause asthma attacks in people who have asthma and are allergic to mold. Even in some non-allergic individuals, mold can cause symptoms of irritation in the eyes, skin, and airways. For example, the “black mold”Stachybotrys, along with some other types of mold, produces toxins known as mycotoxins that can cause irritation of the skin and airways in susceptible individuals.
Indoor Environmental Sampling And Analysis
Professional mold testing is more detailed and specialized than any DIY test. The accuracy of home mold test results vary widely, and these tests may not offer insight into the concentration of mold spores in indoor air or which species of fungus are growing in a home. These tests may also not differentiate between active growth and desiccated airborne mold spores from past growth.
Having a property inspected and tested by certified experts can provide a clearer sense of the scale and severity of a fungal infestation. Indoor environmental hygienists and other specialists trained in assessing mold damage may take air, batch or surface samples to submit for lab analysis. Air samples may also be taken from a central HVAC system. These results can include information about the species of mold present in a structure and whether growth is active or old, and can be used to guide remediation work.
Even professional mold tests cannot determine whether individuals have been exposed to mold spores, mVOCs or mycotoxins. Such information requires lab testing of biological samples taken from the residents of a home or regular occupants of a commercial building with a mold problem. Only licensed healthcare professionals are qualified to interpret the results of medical mold exposure testing.
Here Are Some Of The Common Symptoms I See In My Patients:
GENERAL: insomnia, fatigue, hair loss, weight gain or loss, sweet cravings, light sensitivity, poor depth perception, memory loss, intolerant of fragrances and chemicals, nose bleeds
NEUROLOGIC: headaches of all types, including icepick headaches, brain fog, numbness, tingling, weakness, tremor, nerve pain, dizziness
MUSCULOSKELETAL: joint and muscle pain, muscle cramps, general weakness, tics, muscle twitches
PSYCHIATRIC: anxiety, depression, OCD, short fuse
SKIN: rashes and pruritus
IMMUNE SYSTEM: recurrent infections, autoimmunity, allergy, asthma
GASTROINTESTINAL: nausea, bloating, pain, vomiting, diarrhea
URINARY: urgency and incontinence
HORMONAL: continuous dehydration , night sweats, poor temperature regulation
What about mold makes it dangerous to our health?
I dont want to minimize the danger mold allergy has on the respiratory system: Allergies and asthma can significantly impact quality of life, and can be deadly.
Mold toxicity, specifically, can have big health consequences, because of the kind of toxins molds make as their biological byproducts. These toxins fall into two main categories: mycotoxins or microbial volatile organic compounds . The fungal MVOCs, produced as mixtures of alcohols, aldehydes, acids, ethers, esters, ketones, terpenes, thiols, and their derivatives, are responsible for the characteristic moldy odors sometimes associated with damp indoor spaces. Mold toxins range from mildly toxic to extremely potent .
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Getting A Diagnosis For Mold Sickness
While symptoms to mold exposure are not uncommon , many health care professionals struggle to pinpoint the cause behind these symptoms.
Often only a few people or one person and not everyone, in a home or workplace experience symptoms. This is frustrating and confusing for the sick person. When their doctors cant find any reason for the illness, they can start to feel like the sickness is all in their mind.
People suffering from mold exposure can often be misdiagnosed with disorders such as:
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What Are The Symptoms Of A Mold Allergy
The symptoms of mold allergy are very similar to the symptoms of other allergies, such as sneezing, itching, runny nose, congestion and dry, scaling skin.
- Outdoor molds may cause allergy symptoms in summer and fall
- Indoor molds may cause allergy symptoms year-round
Mold spores get into your nose and cause hay fever symptoms. They also can reach the lungs and trigger asthma. A chemical released by allergy cells in the nose and or lungs causes the symptoms. Sometimes the reaction happens right away. Sometimes a mold allergy can cause delayed symptoms, leading to nasal congestion or worsening asthma over time. Symptoms often get worse in a damp or moldy room like a basement. This may mean you have a mold allergy.
Rarely, some patients can have a more serious illness called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. In this condition, there is both an allergic and an inflammatory response to the mold. Symptoms may include severe wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath, much like asthma.
Tips And Techniques For Mold Cleanup
While much has been written about mold cleanup, the simplest advice is still the best Control the Moisture, Control the Mold. Without moisture, mold will not grow. With sufficient moisture, mold will keep coming back no matter how many times it is cleaned up.
Take the following steps when mold is spotted or suspected:
- Stop the mold growth by finding and repairing the source of the excess moisture. Fix the plumbing leaks, roof leak, flooding, a large spill or high relative humidity.
- Dry all items within 24-48 hours.
- Porous items such as drywall, ceiling tiles, carpeting, padding, books, clothing and other paper or cloth materials soak up moisture. Items that are not dried quickly should be discarded if they show signs of mold or water damage.
- Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, then dry.
- If the water was from a sewage backup or flood, the items should probably be discarded. If you clean the items, use a diluted household bleach solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. Avoid breathing the fumes, getting on skin, or in eyes. Note: Do not mix bleach with other cleaners!
- For more information, see
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When To Go To The Emergency Room
Symptoms of mold exposure are not usually an emergency, but in some instances, you should seek immediate medical treatment. Go directly to the nearest emergency room or call 911 if you:
- Have significant trouble breathing
- Have an asthma attack that doesnt respond to your usual medication or seems worse than usual
- Have a very high fever
- Cough up blood or experience a bloody, frothy discharge from the nose or mouth
- Are confused or disoriented
Let the emergency room staff know if you think your symptoms might be related to mold exposure.
Keep in mind the fact that most doctors have an answering service and a health care professional is on call 24 hours a day, so if youre not sure if you need immediate care or can wait to make an appointment at your doctors office, call the office any time, day or night, for advice.
Symptoms Of Mold Exposure
Most people are unaware exposure to mold can cause serious illness. Even worse, most physicians are not familiar with mold illness or the symptoms of mold exposure, so it is rarely considered as a diagnosis. If mold is suspected, a physician may test the patient for mold allergies or suggest they have allergies to some inhalant but mold illness is much more. Symptoms of mold exposure are very similar to Lyme disease, and it is not uncommon for these conditions to occur simultaneously.
Someone can test positive for mold allergies and experience mold toxicity at the same time. However, in mold toxicity, systemic immune dysregulation, and subsequent inflammation are the underlying features that drive symptoms.
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What Is A Mold Allergy
If you have an allergy that occurs over several seasons, you may be allergic to the spores of molds or other fungi. Molds live everywhere. Upsetting a mold source can send the spores into the air.
Mold and mildew are fungi. They are different from plants or animals in how they reproduce and grow. The seeds, called spores, travel through the air. Some spores spread in dry, windy weather. Others spread with the fog or dew when humidity is high.
Inhaling the spores causes allergic reactions in some people. Allergic symptoms from fungus spores are most common from July to early fall. But fungi grow in many places, both indoors and outside, so allergic reactions can occur year round.
Although there are many types of molds, only a few dozen cause allergic reactions. Many molds grow on rotting logs and fallen leaves, in compost piles and on grasses and grains. Unlike pollens, molds do not die with the first killing frost. Most outdoor molds become inactive during the winter. In the spring they grow on plants killed by the cold. Indoors, fungi grow in damp areas. They can often be found in the bathroom, kitchen or basement.
Do I Have Toxic Mold Poisoning
Last Updated on by Matt Pratt-Hyatt PhD
Today Im going to deal with a common question, Do I have toxic mold poisoning? Another common question that is similar is Is mold really that serious, isnt mold everywhere? I will try and answer both of these questions. Most people are aware of mold because we see it every day.
There are literally thousands of mold species, however, not every species produces toxic compounds. However, water damage is becoming more and more common, which is leading to more mold exposure and mycotoxin production in homes, offices, and schools. However, even if the mold growth isnt producing toxins you might be reacting to the spores themselves.
Lets briefly talk about the two items you might be reacting to, what symptoms you might expect, and how to test to see if this is what is causing your problems.
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Dont Want To Use Chemicals Heres How To Test For Mold In Your Home Naturally
If youre concerned about the effects of harmful chemicals when testing for mold in the house, worry not. Testing for mold doesnt use any chemicals, and kits are non-toxic.
In fact, the main thing you should be worried about when testing for mold is the mold itself. If you are collecting direct samples of mold using the swab technique, wear gloves and a mask to reduce your exposure to the mold.
What Happens If You Eat Food With Mold
The thought of eating something moldy likely makes you want to gag. Most of the time, this is the only symptom youd get after eating moldy food. If somethings not right with your immune system and you eat something moldy, you might experience symptoms like:
- If you had an allergy to mold, then you might have symptoms connected with it as well
If you notice mold on your food that you dont want to throw away, then USDAs guide on handling moldy food will be for you.
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Notes From The Field: Use Of Unvalidated Urine Mycotoxin Tests For The Clinical Diagnosis Of Illness United States 2014
Melody Kawamoto, MD1, Elena Page, MD1
In February 2014, CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health received a request for a health hazard evaluation from a union representative in an office building. A female employee reported the onset of symptoms involving multiple organ systems upon returning to work after a prolonged absence. The employee searched the Internet for descriptions of symptoms matching hers, found a laboratory offering “toxic mold testing” direct to consumers, and submitted a urine sample, despite the absence of musty odors and signs of fungal growth in her office. The laboratory reported “positive” concentrations of two mycotoxins: ochratoxin at 2.8 parts per billion and tricothecenes at 0.4 ppb. The laboratory cutoff for “positive” was 2.0 ppb for ochratoxin and 0.2 ppb for tricothecenes. The interpretation accompanying the laboratory report said the results “revealed that you have an unusual level of that mycotoxin present in your body.”
The laboratory referred the employee to a clinic specializing in “medical treatment for mold exposure and mold illness,” where she was examined, diagnosed with mold toxicity, and prescribed an antifungal medication. Antifungal medications are used to treat fungal infections, not illnesses caused by toxins produced by fungi. Also prescribed were dietary modification and several nonstandard medical treatments .
How To Know If You Have Black Mold In Your House
Mold isnt always visible. If you can see mold, its only a sign of the real potential health risk, which is the harmful types of unhealthy levels of mold in the air of your home or workplace.
Airborne mold is all around us in both the outdoors and indoors. The types and amount of mold is what determines the potential health risk. Most of us are typically accustomed to the varieties and amounts of mold present in our outdoor environments.
Healthy indoor environments will have mold conditions similar to or better than those in the surrounding outdoors. Over time, because of moisture , many indoor spaces develop unhealthy types and/or unhealthy levels of airborne mold that can be harmful to you or your pets.
These signs will help you know if you possibly have unhealthy mold conditions in your house:
- Allergic symptoms
- A damp or musty odor in one or more places
- Frequent headaches
- The air in the home feels different
- Your house has been flooded or currently has leaks
- You previously tried removing mold yourself
Take note of how you feel in and out of the house. If the symptoms disappear or decrease when youre out and about, then you might have a mold problem, yes, even if you cant see mold.
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What Are Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds
Another source of irritation from mold exposure comes from substances knownas microbial volatile organic compounds . These compounds are producedthrough fungal metabolism and are released directly into the air, often givingoff strong or unpleasant odors. Exposure to mVOCs from molds can irritate theeyes and respiratory system and has been linked to symptoms such as headaches,dizziness, fatigue, nasal irritation and nausea. The effects of mVOCs are notcompletely understood and research is still in the early stages.
Products And Tools Youll Need To Test For Mold In Your Home
The only thing you need to test for mold at home is a test kit. In addition to the ones previously mentioned, there are several options available:
- Pro-Lab Mold Test Kit: This kit includes three tests. Your sample can be tested for an additional $40 fee, with results delivered by e-mail or via the companys app.
- MoldCheck Multi-Test Kit: This kit includes supplies to perform ten tests, which is great for an entire home or monitoring an ongoing infestation. However, there is no lab testing option, so you will need to find your own if you need identification.
- ImmunoLytics Mold Screening Test Kit: Perform eight tests with this kit. Each plate can be tested for $33 each.
- My Mold Detective: If you are looking for a more advanced mold monitoring option, the My Mold Detective is a reusable air sampling pump that collects samples in just five minutes. The device comes with four sampling cassettes that can be tested in a lab for $35 each.
- My Mold Detective Additional Samples: The My Mold Detective can be used again and again, so order as many samples as you need to keep tabs on your mold problem.
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I Tested Positive For Mycotoxins Now What
Finding out that theres mold in your home or body can definitely be scaryand embarrassing, too. Fortunately, once you know that youre dealing with toxic mold exposure, you can take action:
If theres mycotoxins in your homeYoull need to consult with a professional mold remediation firm about eliminating the problem. Sometimes, when a mold issue is as simple as a small patch of gunk on a shower wall or a basement carpet that smells like dirt, its possible to clean the mess up on your own. However, large infestationsor infestations of highly dangerous molds, like Stachybotrys chartarum should only be handled by experts.
If theres mycotoxins in your bodyYou should see a physician right away. Explain your symptoms and bring a copy of your test results. Your doctor may want to give you another test to verify that yes, mycotoxins really are the source of your health issues.
Once you receive an official diagnosis, the doctor will be able to come up with an appropriate treatment plan. Meanwhile, it would be wise to have your home inspected for mold, as well, to stop the toxins at their source.