How Mold Can Affect Your Health

If you’re developing unexplained illnesses, suffer from asthma and notice an increase in frequency of symptoms (i.e. wheezing), as well as noticing other allergic-like reactions, this could be an indicator of mold being the culprit. While mold-related reactions are more common in the spring and summer months, they can occur at any time — especially if you happen to live in a building where mold is present, or there has been previous mold damage.

Symptoms of mold sensitivity or mold allergy are very similar to symptoms that one would experience if they suffered from hay fever; such as sneezing, coughing/throat irritation, nasal congestion, runny nose, and red, itchy and/or watery eyes. Exposure to mold can also cause skin irritation, and some research has shown that it can also trigger as many as 100 different physical symptoms, including headaches, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, infections, and even mental symptoms like anxiety. Mold can also cause a more serious response known as allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, which occurs when there is both an inflammatory and allergic response to mold. Symptoms of ABA can include severe coughing, severe wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Mold can grow anywhere — it can be found in businesses, schools, and even your own home. Mold tends to thrive in damp environments and can also cause damage to the material it lives on. The best way to prevent mold growth is to keep your home clean and dry. However, if mold growth or damage is already extensive, you will most likely need to hire a mold removal specialist to get rid of the mold completely. Aside from being found in buildings, mold can also be found on the foods we eat — also known as food fungi. For example, mushroom or foods that contain yeast, as well as soy sauce and vinegar. Unlike mold that grows in your home, these foods can trigger an allergy-like response as a result of histamine, a chemical that your cells release when you are having an allergic reaction. Symptoms of this type of reaction can be mild to severe, ranging from skin rash and hives, to a more serious allergic response known as anaphylaxis. This type of allergic reaction can be life-threatening; therefore, you will need to seek immediate medical attention by calling 911. Patients with a history of going into anaphylaxis will usually be prescribed epinephrine, a medication that helps to reverse the allergic reaction. If you do administer epinephrine to yourself and someone else, it’s still important that you call 911, as you will need to be monitored in hospital for a few hours just to ensure the allergic response doesn’t reoccur. You will also need to avoid the food responsible for the allergic reaction.

There is no cure to allergies, just like there is no cure to reactions related to mold toxicity. There are, however, certain precautions that I recommend taking in order to decrease symptoms. For example, you should limit the amount of time you spend outdoors when mold spore counts are more likely to be high. If you are going to be spending time outside or in areas where you could potentially be exposed to mold, I suggest wearing a mask, as this will also help to decrease the amount of mold spores you breathe in. To reduce your exposure to mold spores when indoors, try using central air conditioning with a HEPA filter attached, as this can trap mold spores and also keep humidity below 45 or 35 percent. If you happen to use a humidifier, you should be cleaning it as often as twice per week, as they can also be a source of mold. Areas that are cool and damp, such as bathrooms, laundry rooms and basements, can also become a breeding ground for mold, so try to reduce dampness in these areas as much as possible; i.e. by removing carpeting, repairing any plumbing leaks, not leaving wet/damp clothes in the washing machine, and ensuring your home has good air circulation.

Originally published at https://alighahary.ca on June 10, 2021.

Dr. Ali Ghahary is a Family Physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. http://www.alighahary.ca