The type and severity of health effects that result from mold exposure is widely variable among different locations, from person to person and over time. Although difficult to predict, exposure to molds growing indoors is most often associated with the following allergy symptoms:
- Nasal and sinus congestion
- Cough/sore throat
- Chest tightness
- Dyspnea (breathing difficulty)
- Asthma (or exacerbation of it)
- Epistaxis (nosebleed)
- Upper respiratory tract infections
- Skin and eye irritation
Long-term exposure to indoor molds is certainly unhealthy to anyone, but some groups will develop more severe symptoms sooner than others, including:
- Infants and children
- Elderly people
- Individuals with respiratory conditions, allergies and/or asthma
Some indoor molds are capable of producing extremely potent toxins (mycotoxins) that are lipid-soluble and readily absorbed by the intestinal lining, airways, and skin. These agents, usually contained in the fungal spores, have toxic effects ranging from short-term irritation to immunosuppression and cancer.
More severe symptoms that could result from continuous human exposure to indoor mycotoxigenic molds include:
- Cancer (aflatoxin best characterized as potential human carcinogen)
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis/pulmonary fibrosis
- Pulmonary injury/hemosiderosis (bleeding)
- Hematologic and immunologic disorders
- Hepatic, endocrine and/or renal toxicities
- Pregnancy, gastrointestinal and/or cardiac conditions
It is important to notice that the clinical relevance of mycotoxins under realistic airborne exposure levels is not fully established. Further, some or much of the supporting evidence for these other health effects is based on case studies rather than controlled studies, studies that have not yet been reproduced or involve symptoms that are subjective.
Mold allergies are easily treatable when properly diagnosed, so it is important for individuals who suspect their symptoms may be related to mold to consult with an allergy specialist or a physician to determine an appropriate course of treatment. Taking steps such as repairing water leaks and installing dehumidifiers in the home can also help to hinder mold growth and relieve mold allergy symptoms. Understanding what causes mold allergies and taking preventative measures to avoid exposure are essential in managing symptoms.
Itching eyes are a common allergic symptom that can develop following exposure to mold spores, pet dander and seasonal pollens. Individuals who experience itching eyes during wet or humid weather or when moisture levels are high inside the home may be suffering from mold allergy symptoms.
Stuffy Nose & Post Nasal Drip
Nasal congestion is a common mold allergy symptom that is often triggered after periods of wet weather or when an individual is exposed to mold spores in the home. When nasal stuffiness occurs, it is often accompanied by postnasal drip, a condition in which nasal secretions run down the back of the throat. Additional symptoms of postnasal drip include bad breath and coughing.
Individuals with mold allergies may also experience an itching sensation in the throat. Itching throat symptoms are typically caused by postnasal drip, but can also be a symptom of a serious allergic reaction that can lead to throat swelling if left untreated. It is important for sufferers to seek medical attention if itching throat symptoms are present to ensure prompt treatment.
Mold spores can cause the sinuses to become congested, which in turn can trigger sinus headaches in individuals with mold allergies. Sinus headaches cause pain and pressure in the forehead and sinus cavities. In certain cases, sinus pressure can also cause tooth and ear pain. Sinus headaches tend to worsen when lying down.
Exacerbated Asthma Symptoms
Individuals with mold allergies who also suffer from asthma may experience exacerbated asthma symptoms when exposed to mold. Asthma symptoms include chest tightness, wheezing and coughing. Anyone experiencing a severe asthma attack following possible mold exposure should seek immediate medical attention.
An attic can be a breeding ground for mold due to many reasons such as over insulating, poor ventilation, lack of circulation, exhausts from bathrooms being vented into the attic and roof leaks. Too often when a home owner gets a leak from their roof, they address the leak, but overlook the damage it causes. Once mold starts to grow in an attic, it can easily spread causing major damage that can be quite costly. So, if you should have a leak from your roof, don’t forget to have the checked to avoid what could become a major mold remediation job.
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On a recent trip to a property I was called out to, the home owner was concerned about mold growing on the ceiling in several locations. After spending some time going over what the issue was and how it was to be remediated, she informed me of a different company who took a look at the basement and explained that she had mold on the joists. So I went down and took a look and could see what they were saying was mold, but didn’t agree. I explained to the customer, as I do to everyone, that without positive proof of mold growth, (like on drywall or plaster), all areas are suspect until tested. I had told her that a lot of companies use this sort of tactic, where they go into a house for one thing and look around with a plan to find another even if it doesn’t exist. She agreed and allowed me to take a few surface samples of the suspected areas. Two days later the results came back showing she had no mold whatsoever. So, if she had agreed with the other contractor who even went so far to say that she was going to get sick and that if she didn’t do the job the floors would have to be completely ripped up soon, she would have wasted her money. And the next part that was bothersome, was the contractor telling her that all they had to do was spray the joists down with a “special chemical,” and the mold would disappear. Once again it brings us back to the point I always try to make, and that’s to do your Due Diligence. Mold Remediation, like every other business, has its good contractors and its bad contractors, and it’s your job to use your best judgement to weed them out.
Severe asthma is linked to insomnia, sleep duration, and sleep hygiene in adolescents. The findings were published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice. The researchers aimed to better understand modifiable health behaviors which may relate to asthma control. They highlighted sleep as one of those behaviors, but stated that it typically does not receive that much attention in regard to asthma control.
The researchers examined sleep duration, insomnia, and sleep hygiene in adolescents without asthma and with asthma to establish the effects of these factors on asthma control. The adolescents completed online surveys which the researchers then analyzed. Sleep duration did not differ between the asthma group and non-asthma group, but asthma adolescents reported insufficient weekday sleep compared to the children without asthma (44 percent versus 31 percent, respectively). Asthma children also reported worsened sleep hygiene, and nearly double of asthma children reported insomnia, compared to children without asthma.
The researchers concluded that children with severe asthma experience insomnia, less sleep duration, and poorer sleep hygiene, when compared to children without asthma.
If your home’s air regularly has high relative-humidity readings, check for water sources around your house. These could include leaking air conditioners and plumbing lines, or damaged roofs. Also look for clogged gutters and foundation drains. In addition, too much shady foliage planted near the house can contribute to problems.
Of course, poor ventilation can easily result in high indoor humidity levels. Therefore, it’s a good idea for rooms in your home that commonly generate large amounts of water vapor to be properly vented to the outdoors, so the water vapor can’t build up indoors. Ideally, a range hood over your kitchen stovetop, an exhaust fan in your laundry room, and exhaust fans in your bathrooms, should be installed and used regularly. All such fans must be vented to the outdoors to be effective.
Bathroom fans can have a simple, manually operated on/off wall-mounted switch, a manually set crank timer, or they can be controlled by a dehumidistat. A dehumidistat is simply a device that monitors relative-humidity levels. It can be used to automatically turn on an exhaust fan when a certain relative humidity is sensed. For example, a dehumidistat could turn on a bathroom exhaust fan when the relative humidity rises after a shower. You’ll also want to make sure that your clothes dryer is vented to the outdoors.
You can also lower the relative humidity by using air conditioners and dehumidifiers. Both pull water vapor out of the air and condense it into liquid water. Air conditioners and dehumidifiers are available from many local department and appliance store.
Note that dehumidifiers can be emptied either automatically into a house drain, or manually. If you decide upon a dehumidifier, it’s important to clean it regularly to prevent mold growth. This is especially necessary with models that must be emptied manually inasmuch as they can contain standing water for some time. In the winter, closets can have a higher relative humidity than other rooms in a house, so they can also be places where mold can grow.