Black Mold Or Toxic Mold Exposure
Although allergies to mold are common, some molds, like black mold or toxic mold, can cause illness and serious health effects without an allergic reaction. These molds can cause a host of problems, ranging from skin infections and rashes to pneumonia and flu like symptoms. In addition to mold allergy symptoms and eye and skin irritations from black mold, you may also experience headaches, more severe breathing troubles, fever, dizziness, nervousness, extreme fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.
Different Types Of Mold
Allergenic Molds. Allergenic molds are on the low end of the danger scale. They only cause problems for those with asthma and a predisposed allergy to the specific mold. Children are more likely to have mold allergies than adults.
Pathogenic Molds. Pathogenic molds will cause some infection. This is a big problem for those with a suppressed immune system. An acute response resembling bacterial pneumonia is commonly found with those exposed to these types of mold.
Toxigenic Molds. As the name implies, these molds produce mycotoxins that can cause serious health effects. They have been tied to immunosuppression and cancer. The toxic chemicals found in these types of molds can be absorbed into the body when one inhales them, eats them, or even touches them.
What You Can Do In The Meantime
While you’re waiting to see your doctor, there are numerous over-the-counter allergy medications that may ease your symptoms.
If you have visible mold in your home, it will help to have someone who’s not allergic to mold clean the area using a solution of 1 ounce of bleach to 1 quart of water or a commercially available mold-cleaning product. If you have to clean up the mold yourself, be sure to wear long rubber gloves, safety goggles and a mask to limit your exposure to the mold.
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What Mold Smells Like
Mold has a damp, musty scentsimilar to what youd smell after opening an old book. In general, smell is not a good way to determine if there is a mold problem, says Laureen Burton, a staff chemist and toxicologist for the Environmental Protection Agency . The smell of indoor molds can differ depending on the type of mold, the surface on which its growing, and its source of moisture. Plus, she says, some people dont notice a smell at all.
The mold smell is caused by microbial volatile organic compounds , which are substances that are naturally produced by molds as they grow. The health effects of inhaling mVOCs are largely unknown, says Burton, although exposure to some mVOCs has been linked to symptoms such as headaches, nasal irritation, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea.
Signs Of Mold Illness
Mold is a big problem in most homes, but many people are unaware of the problem. Of course, everyone looks at the shower curtain, under the sink, or in the basement when he or she think about mold issues, but mold can grow just about anywhere.
Mold can be found in drywall, in the roof , and even in ones Christmas tree. One study found that Christmas trees can breed mold, quietly releasing millions of spores into the room causing winter allergies and asthma attacks. Studies have found that indoor air quality dropped six-fold over the 14 days a Christmas tree typically decorates a room.
There are 1,000 types of mold that can be found growing in the modern American home. Scientists classify these molds based on the effect they have on humans and other living things.
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How To Get Rid Of Mold
There are plenty of DIY mold removal options for you on the web some more effective than others. These may suffice if the problem is minor. After DIY treatment, it may be good to have an air quality test taken to determine the effectiveness of your work.
If the problem is more than minor, DIY methods will likely only remove the appearance of mold for a short time. If the problem is more serious, the best approach is to hire a certified and reputable local mold remediation company.
Most mold remediation companies will recommend demolition of the infected part of your home to get rid of mold, so keep in mind that you might have additional expenses to restore a portion of your house. Besides that, the process might take several days.
If you are looking into demolition-free mold removal, then look into the companies that use a dry fog technique. When properly done, this method not only kills mold without demolition to your home, but it also takes less than a day to complete.
What Does Black Mold Exposure Treatment Look Like
Just like the diagnosis, the treatment of mold exposure differs from doctor to doctor. One thing most doctors will advise you to do is to test for and, if needed, remove any unhealthy mold conditions from your home. Even if the treatment will help in the short-term, it wont be effective over the long-term if your indoor environment isnt improved.
To treat the symptoms, doctors may suggest:
- Over-the-counter medication. Medicine that would decrease the airway inflammation and suppress the allergic reactions.
- Nasal sprays to deal with a runny or stuffy nose or rinses to clear your nasal passages from inhaled mold spores.
- Regular allergy medicine
A persons immune system has to be working properly to fight mold symptoms, so changes in a lifestyle or diet might be necessary. In more severe cases of allergies, doctors prescribe immunotherapy to provide relief from symptoms
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How Do You Know If Mold Is Making You Sick
Are you sick and suspect it might be from mold?
Determining whether exposure to mold is making you sick isnt always easy.
Each persons body is affected by mold toxicity in different ways. Some experience constant migraines and headaches, shortness of breath, brain fog, fatigue or even depression.
Since symptoms differ from person to person, they may not be quickly associated with mold exposure. Many people suffering from mold illness struggle to get a proper diagnosis and investigation.
Its common to think my house is clean it cant be mold! However, mold comes in many forms. In this article, well share what toxic mold is, the signs and symptoms, and how it can be treated.
Exposure To Specific Types
Although there are hundreds of molds, not all of them lead to an allergic reaction. The most common molds that cause allergies include alternaria, aspergillus, cladosporium, stachybotrys and penicillium, says Dr. Mavunda.
The more obvious hiding spots of common molds are:
- Alternaria: Occurring in the environment, although typically found in plants and damp materials such as textiles.
- Aspergillus: Found both indoors and outside, this mold has around 180 species40 of which can cause reactions in humans.
- Cladosporium: As one of the most common fungi found both outdoors and indoors, it is commonly found in outdoor and indoor air , plants, soil and fruits.
- Stachybotrys: Often referred to as black mold, stachybotrys is found in buildings with water damage or high condensation levels, as it requires a constant moisture source to grow.
- Penicillium: As well as being present in indoor environments, this type of mold is found in soil, vegetation, certain foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and in the air.
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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.
What About Mold And Asthma
What makes mold spores so harmful to people with asthma is mostly a mystery. Some experts say the small size of mold spores allows them to pass more easily into the lower airways, where they can trigger an asthma attack. Others contend mold spores may also interact with other allergens and environmental air pollution, thus increasing the asthma risk from those substances. In addition to mold allergy, people also can have an irritant response to some of the volatile chemicals that molds release into the air.
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When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About Mold Allergy
If you have symptoms you think are related to mold, call your provider. They can treat your symptoms and may want to do allergy testing.
If you do have asthma or other breathing problems, and you suspect you have an allergy to mold, contact your provider. If you have any type of severe breathing problem, call 911 or go to an emergency room.
If your mold allergy is confirmed, make sure that you follow the instructions of your provider. You may need to carry an epinephrine injector if you have severe reactions to mold. This type of medicine treats life-threatening allergic reactions.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Allergies are common conditions. If you have them, it means you react differently to certain substances than other people do. The best thing to do is avoid what youre allergic to. Among people with allergies, an allergy to mold or other environmental substances happens to 1 in 5 people. Many allergic reactions to mold are similar to the types of reactions you have to other allergens like pet dander or dust. You may have itchy eyes or skin, and your nose might run. Some reactions to mold are more dangerous, like when it acts as an asthma trigger. Keep in contact with your healthcare provider to know the best ways to treat your mold allergy.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/10/2022.
Is There A Test To Determine If I Have Been Exposed To Mold
Some physicians have recommended testing for mold-specific antibodies. Thepresence of antibodies only indicates that you have been exposed to a substanceat some time. It does not tell you when you were exposed, where the exposuretook place, or how much of the mold you were exposed to. Having a positive testfor mold-specific antibodies alone is generally considered insufficient toprove that health effects reported by individuals in moisture-damaged buildingsare caused by exposure to mold.
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Who Is At Risk Of Mold Sickness
Mold exposure can affect anyone, even if there are no immediate symptoms. Some types of mold release substances called mycotoxins that can harm your health in the long run.
However, some people are more sensitive to the effects of mold, including:
- Young children
How Is Mold Allergy Diagnosed
To diagnose an allergy to mold, your healthcare provider will take a complete medical history and examine you. To diagnose most types of allergies, including mold, your provider will probably do a skin and/or blood test.
The skin test involves scratching your skin with needles that have mold extracts on them. If youre allergic to the molds, youll probably have some type of reaction, like itching or redness or swelling.
Blood tests can provide allergy screening or an allergen-specific IgE antibody test. This can help to diagnose an allergy or to see if treatment is working.
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Are There Other Allergens I Could Be Sensitized To*
Some people with a mold allergy may also experience symptoms when exposed to other types of mold. This is called cross-reactivity and occurs when your body’s immune system identifies the proteins, or components, in different substances as being structurally similar or biologically related, thus triggering a response.13
*These products may not be approved for clinical use in your country. Please work with your healthcare provider to understand availability.
Preparing For An Appointment
Many people are diagnosed and treated for allergies by their primary care physicians. However, depending on the severity of your allergies, your primary care doctor may refer you to a doctor who specializes in treating allergies.
You can take steps to ensure you cover everything that’s important to you during your appointment. Here’s some information to help you get ready and know what to expect from your doctor.
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Treating Symptoms Of Mold Exposure
If youre suffering from health problems related to mold exposure, there are two important components of treatment.
First, you need to see your doctor. Let your doctor know if youve been exposed to mold and that your symptoms may be related to mold exposure. It may affect the treatment prescribed. Your doctor may prescribe antihistamines or other medications for allergy-like symptoms. If you have infections like bronchitis or pneumonia, youll probably need antibiotics. If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may recommend not returning to your home until the mold can be removed.
Second, you need to have all traces of mold removed from your home. As long as you continue to be exposed to mold, youll probably continue to suffer from toxic mold symptoms. In fact, the symptoms will probably get worse as time goes on. Any medical treatment will be of limited effectiveness as long as you continue to be around mold.
Mold remediation is a complicated procedure and while some homeowners prefer to handle the job themselves, its not recommended if youre experiencing health problems related to mold exposure. The process of removing mold stirs up the mold spores that cause symptoms, so doing the mold remediation yourself can end up making you sicker.
How Does Mold Impact Our Health
As mentioned above, some types of mold produce mycotoxins nasty little spores that cannot be seen without a special equipment. For example, one often found toxic type of mold is the infamous black mold.
In most cases, mold spores will weaken your immune system enough that you become vulnerable to many diseases. How much of a harmful effect mold will have on your health will mainly depend on the time spend in mold presence. The longer you live inside a moldy house and breathe in mold spores, the greater the risk for you and, of course, your loved ones.
Ensuring that your home stays mold free is one of the best ways to prevent diseases and infections such as tuberculosis.
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What Is Mold And Where Does It Grow
Mold is a type of fungus, a diverse kingdom that also includes mushrooms and yeasts. Unlike plants, molds and other fungi feed on organic material, whether its a rotting tree or a carpet in your basement, by breaking them down and absorbing their nutrients.
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Mold thrives in warm, moist environments. The air can be full of it in the warm summer months, often causing seasonal cases of hay fever. In the South, where its warm and humid enough for mold to live all year long, allergies to outdoor molds can be a constant nuisance.
Molds can live indoors, too. Theyve even been found in subfreezing temperatures: The only thing they need is oxygen, something to feed on, and moisture. A damp basement is the classic hot spot. Mold can also thrive on carpets in other moist places, such as basements, closets, and bathrooms. Other potential moldy places include tubs, shower stalls, air conditioners, humidifiers, garbage cans, mattresses, and upholstered furniture.
Mold Allergy And Asthma
If the person also has asthma, they may have an increase in asthma symptoms, like wheezing, says Susan Besser, MD, a primary care physician at Mercy Personal Physicians at Overlea in Maryland.
Its important for anyone with asthma to have anasthma action plan, a written plan that spells out how to address an asthma attack, beginning with the early signs of trouble. If you have allergies, including mold allergies, the plan should include that information and note that exposure to mold may trigger an asthma flare-up.
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Could Your Sniffling Be A Mold Allergy
Sniffling and sneezingalong with other unpleasant symptomsare your bodys way of signaling that it really, really doesnt like being around a certain substance. If you have a mold allergy, exposure causes your bodys immune system to overreact, producing symptoms like a runny nose and watery, itchy eyes. If you also have asthma, it might even lead to some wheezing and difficulty breathing.
Unfortunately, theres a major complicating factor: You may not even know that this common allergen is the culprit. It can lurk, unseen and hidden. The only way you might realize its around is when you start using up your box of tissues.
Is There A Risk For A Severe Event
Exposure and sensitization to fungal allergens can promote the development and worsening of allergic diseases such as allergic rhinitis and asthma.13
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