Catching up a mold exposure is seemingly trivial since it left no serious symptoms upon the initial infection. Mold exposure symptoms can only develop when the infestation is heavy, and sometimes, late enough to cause serious health problems.
Among the most dangerous mold types is the black mold that releases mycotoxins and characterized in musty, mildewy, and has damp smell.
A. What is Mold and Where Do They Grow?
Types of molds are considered as fungi that reproduce in fibril form and grow by producing spores. The mold spores can travel through the air, and usually holds the color of grayish upon the initial colonizing, and can turn into blueish to black color after a while.
At a house, the most common culprit of mold exposure is Penicillium, Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Stachybotryschartarum. The latter kind is considered as the dangerous one, often referred to as the Black Mold or Stachybotrys Atra that can release toxins to the environment.
Molds, in general, can grow indoor or outdoor in practically any season and any type of environment. The black mold, however, tends to develop in high cellulose surfaces like the fiberboard, wood, gypsum, paper dust, lint, and dust. Other types of mold love humidity so they can appear as the result of a damp environment, often grow on carpets or food.
Prior to having mold exposure, the mold will develop tiny spores that are stubborn and can survive under any circumstances. They travel through the air, and when finding the perfect surface, mostly with moisture, the mold will start to grow. When found in an indoor area like a house or a building, it has the potential to trigger health problems and damage the objects where it grows.
Mold exposure may appear in spots in many different colors. On food, the most common mold species to grow are Botrytis, Cladosporium, Fusarium, Rhizopus, and Thamnidium.
B. Detecting Mold exposure symptoms in Your Body
The initial mold exposure is caused by mycotoxins that are released by the spores to the air; it can be inhaled or swallowed and enter the human’s body. While the mold itself is not poisonous, the mycotoxins produce the irritating substance that can highly affect people with health issues like asthma or other upper respiratory problem.
Allergic reaction commonly occurs as a form of mold exposure and can develop into further health issues after prolonged and untreated infestation in the body.
The allergic reactions of mold exposure symptoms include:
- Runny and itchy nose
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Nose stuffiness
- Itchy or irritated skin
The symptoms mostly occur in people without a respiratory condition, and it’s usually light enough that people consider it as the usual thing.
However, the case is different for people with allergies or asthma. The mold exposure can develop more severe symptoms as of people with the compromised immune system. Prolonged mold infection may develop into lung infection and chronic lung disease.
The symptoms include:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Persistent coughing
- Difficult to breathe
- Chest colds
- Seasonal allergies (hay fever)
- Other allergic reactions
Unfortunately, there is no means to predict the severity of mold infestation at home that can possibly trigger even severe mold exposure. A different individual may react differently to the exposure, and health risk also depends on the period of exposure as well as the type of mold species.
In prolonged and chronic cases, people can develop long-term signs of mold exposure like:
- Memory loss
- Losing hair
- Muscle cramps
- Stomach pain
- Numbness in hands and feet
- Sensitive to light
C. How to Diagnose Mold exposure
When you suspect mold poisoning, it cannot always be diagnosed by examining the symptoms only. Mold exposure test is essential to determine the correct diagnosis, thus related to the correct treatment to cure the allergic reactions.
A physical examination is highly considered to identify or exclude any medical diagnosis. Among the mold exposure test to be taken are the skin prick test and blood test.
The skin prick test is conducted to take a tiny sample of mold and apply onto your skin. The doctor will use diluted suspected mold allergens within the area and puncture your skin using a needle. When you develop hives, skin bump, or rash, it means that you are allergic to that certain mold.
The other method, the blood test, is conducted to identify your body’s immune system response to the mold exposure. The procedure includes taking your blood sample to the laboratory and examine the certain antibodies in your bloodstream called the immunoglobulin (IgE) antibodies. The result will show you if the evidence match sensitivity to mold or not.
To eliminate the risk of having a more serious health problem, it is essential for you to take the test and diagnosis which are helpful to defy any possibility of long term effect of mold exposure.
D. Treatment Available for Mold exposure Allergies
When the signs of mold exposure are light, the treatment for the allergic reaction to mold is the same as the treatment for general allergic reactions. Unfortunately, people with a compromised immune system or asthma that has fungal infection may need a hospital treatment with specific antifungal drugs.
In general, there is different mold exposure treatment depending on the severity of the case.
1. Over-The-Counter Medication
This type of treatment allows people to take medication and minimizing airway inflammation. The medication includes antihistamines like the Zyrtec and Claritin or decongestants to reduce swelling due to the allergic reaction to mold exposure.
2. Nasal Spray
This mold exposure treatment is used to ease breathing when you are diagnosed with a mold infestation. The procedure uses nasal corticosteroids like Flonase to reduce airway inflammation, help clear your nasal passages of the spores, as well as remove congestion.
3. Montelukast Procedure
Combining the treatment using montelukast (Singulair) procedure can prevent mucus from developing as eventually reduce their number in your airways. Montelukast procedure is believed to bring positive impacts in reducing allergies to mold exposure and asthma.
Also known as the allergy shots, the next mold exposure treatment includes getting a regular shot containing small amounts of the allergens in your body. This procedure is aimed to build one’s tolerance to the allergens by gradually increasing the amounts. It’s a long-term treatment but definitely worthy of improving your immunity.
To eliminate the chance of getting mold exposure, you can get any commercial cleaning product to kill the mold. Regular cleaning on the vents, filters, and ducts is also advisable to prevent them from growing rapidly in your house.