How Can Mold Affect Your Health?

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Molds are an easygoing but pervasive group of funguses. All they ask from us is access to a consistently damp environment like a bathroom or leaky attic. In return, they’ll propagate and provide us with a host of irritating and sometimes serious health conditions.

Research studies have shown that mold can cause unpleasant respiratory symptoms in otherwise healthy adults and children. Scientists also know that many people suffer from mold allergies. In addition, if you have a chronic respiratory illness or your immune system is compromised due to a medical condition or illness, mold can cause further health problems. What researchers haven’t been able to prove are the often-publicized claims that exposure to “black mold” causes memory loss, headaches, fever, and rashes.

Alternaria, aspergillus, cladsporium, and penicillium are the most common indoor molds. Stachybotrys chartarum (black mold) isn’t rare, but it’s also not as common as the other four fungi.

Mold can bring on many respiratory woes

Mold spores fly through the air into your nose, mouth, and lungs each time you breathe. These invaders can set off alarms in your respiratory tract whether or not you have any other allergies or illnesses. Although symptoms aren’t life-threatening in these cases, they can make you feel pretty miserable. If you’re experiencing some of these maladies, mold might be the culprit:

  • Cough

  • Post-nasal drip

  • Runny nose

  • Scratchy throat

  • Sneezing

  • Watery, itchy eyes

In addition, if you work in an environment where you’re constantly exposed to high levels of mold, such as on a farm, in a greenhouse, or in a lumber mill, you run a greater risk of developing hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP). HP is an inflammation of the lungs that can either be acute or chronic. The acute form can cause fever, chills, and body aches. The long-range form can cause lung scarring. Both acute and chronic HP can cause you to cough and be short of breath.

You can often detect mold through sight or smell. Mold appears as black, gray, white or green spots and emits an unpleasant, musty odor.

If you’re already ill, mold can make you sicker

If you have a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or cystic fibrosis, you need to guard against regular exposure to mold. Mold can exacerbate your symptoms, causing you to develop allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABA). Although this form of ABA won’t damage your lungs, it will make you wheeze and cough and, in severe cases, you’ll become short of breath.

People who have compromised immune systems should also avoid moldy environments. If your immune responses are impaired because you’ve had chemotherapy or a bone marrow transplant for instance, you’re at greater risk for acquiring an invasive form of ABA that destroys lung tissue.

You can easily destroy small amounts of mold on hard surfaces with a solution of ten parts water to one part chlorine bleach. You’ll have to remove and discard softer surfaces that can’t be bleached, such as carpeting and upholstery.

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