Symptoms of Mold Exposure
There have been many reported symptoms of mold exposure due to the way that mold spreads allergens, irritants, infectious diseases, and sometimes mycotoxins, which are toxic to humans and pets. The people most vulnerable to mold and experiencing mold exposure symptoms are infants, small children, the elderly, those with allergies or asthma, and the immunocompromised, such as individuals with HIV/AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy.
People with mold sensitivities should be careful in outdoor settings that are likely to have mold growth. These types of settings include compost piles, wooded areas, piles of dead leaves, and cut grass. Mold’s job in the environment is to break down decaying materials so you will often find it among dying plants. Mold does not need to be living and growing to cause a reaction in a person. Exposure to dead mold can still result in negative health effects.
When mold spores are inhaled or touched, they can sometimes cause sensitive people to experience allergy symptoms. These types of allergic reactions could manifest themselves in many different ways including difficulty breathing, wheezing, headache, sneezing, runny nose, eye irritation, and skin irritation. Mold exposure can also induce asthma attacks in those already with asthma and spark the development of asthma-related symptoms in those without asthma.
Whether an individual is allergic to mold or not, mold exposure can still cause irritation in the eyes, skin, nose, throat, sinuses, and lungs of seemingly healthy individuals. The larger the size of the infestation and the more prolonged the exposure, the worse the symptoms will be. If you think the place you are inhabiting is contaminated with mold, you need to leave the premises until a mold inspection specialist checks it out.
Some forms of the common indoor mold Aspergillus have been known to cause an infectious disease called Aspergillosis. Only around 40 of the approximate 190 species of Aspergillus discovered thus far have caused negative health effects in people during testing. Typically, individuals with strong immune systems are fine after contact with this type of mold, but the immunocompromised are at a higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms of mold exposure.
Mycotoxins are toxic agents that some types of molds can release when they grow. Exposure to mycotoxins occurs in the same forms as it does with regular mold spores: through inhalation, contact with the skin, and ingestion. Over 200 mycotoxins have been identified in common molds and the research continues. Some of the common molds that have shown mycotoxin production include Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Stachybotrys chartarum.
The effects of exposure to these mold byproducts will vary depending on factors such as the extent of exposure, nature of exposure, gender, medications, immune system strength. Generally, the better health you are in, the more you avoid unhealthy habits, and the less severe your exposure to mold, the better off you will be. There is still a lot of research to be done on mycotoxins and their effect on people.
How Long Before Symptoms of Mold Exposure Appear
The amount of time that it takes for mold symptoms to appear depends on the duration and size of the exposure to mold. This exposure can cause acute health problems or chronic health problems. Acute symptoms typically occur after a larger mold exposure at one time and the effects are immediate and severe. Chronic symptoms result from shorter bouts of repeated exposure to small amounts of mold and can take days, months, or even longer to develop.
Organic Dust Toxic Syndrome and Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis
Because of their constant exposure to many types of mold infestations, mold removal professionals are vulnerable to developing Organic Dust Toxic Syndrome (ODTS) and Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis (HP). ODTS can develop after a single exposure to dust that is contaminated with specific fungi. Since dust can gather on any material and do so quickly, protective equipment is vital at all times when inspecting a home. For more information on what gear to wear to properly protect yourself, go to our Personal Protection Equipment page.
HP is different in that it develops after many exposures to the same causative agent. The effects of HP can be severe and cause irreversible damage to the lungs. Other dangers inside of wet buildings besides mold include rodents and pests (which can carry harmful diseases), chemicals, and bacteria.
Daily mold and pollen counts are reported online by an organization called The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI). The AAAI does this through a service they established called the National Allergy Bureau (NAB). The reports are quite helpful and allow you to hone in on specific cities all across the United States and some other countries. They include a wide range of information including concentration levels and species of trees, weed allergens, grass, pollen, and mold.
To check out pollen and mold spore levels in your area, go to AAAAI’s website here: http://www.aaaai.org/global/nab-pollen-counts. You can also set up email alerts to get personalized updates about counts in your area.
The AAAAI is an organization composed of thousands of medical professionals dedicated to researching and treating allergic and immunologic diseases. Their research is helping millions control their allergy triggers and symptoms and better navigate their health issues.
How to Treat Mold Exposure
The first step in treating mold exposure is removing yourself from the infested building. The longer time you are in close quarters with the mold contaminated air, the more exacerbated your symptoms will be. Getting fresh air to stop making the problem worse is the first move.
For a healthy individual, then the symptoms may clear up on their own with time away from the contaminated space. But it is important that the mold problem is properly dealt with before returning so that the symptoms do not simply return. If the symptoms of mold exposure do not clear up or if an individual affected has a weakened immune system, then they should contact a health professional for diagnosis.