Whether short-term or long-term exposure to mold your health is at risk. There is a wide range of mold-related illnesses, some of which are difficult or even impossible to diagnose. But, what is mold sickness?
Types of Mold Sickness and Mold Exposure Symptoms
Mold thrives in warm, humid environments and can be found almost everywhere. It spreads by releasing tiny spores that float through the air. Some types of mold also produce mycotoxins, microscopic organic compounds that can attach to mold spores and cause additional health effects when inhaled.
Mold exposure does not always cause immediate reactions, and different types of mold can cause a person to react in distinctly different ways. However, those who are sensitive to mold or have mold allergies may experience the following symptoms after exposure, according to the CDC:
Eye, throat, or skin irritation
Coughing or wheezing
Reactions may be more severe in those with:
Weakened immune systems
Chronic lung illnesses
If you are in one of the above groups, the CDC recommends staying away from likely sources of mold, such as wooded areas, compost piles, freshly-cut grass, and more.
Mold Allergies, Asthma, and Other Respiratory Symptoms
Touching or inhaling mold spores may cause you to become allergic to mold, whether you already experience allergy symptoms or not. Exposure to mold may cause a range of allergy symptoms, including sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, and eye, nose, and throat irritation, according to the CDC.
Exposure to mold and damp indoor environments has been linked to a wide range of health effects. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), both mold and damp indoor environments have been found to cause coughing, wheezing, and other symptoms of respiratory illnesses in otherwise healthy individuals. Those with asthma may experience more severe asthma symptoms when exposed to mold or indoor dampness, including tightness, swelling, and mucus in the airways. The CDC also notes that workplace exposure to mold in damp buildings has been associated with new-onset asthma.
Exposure to black mold can lead to a type of toxicosis that is often referred to as black mold poisoning. Black mold releases mycotoxins as a sort of defense mechanism when the growth is disturbed. These mycotoxins travel through the air on mold spores and are easily inhaled. The toxin produced by black mold, trichothecenes, has been proven to be detrimental to humans.
Though exposure to mycotoxins can sometimes cause the allergic symptoms listed above, it may also present in non-allergic symptoms, including:
Indoor air quality solutions for mold
The best way to avoid mold in the home or workplace is to prevent its growth altogether.
Because mold thrives in damp, warm environments, you can try:
Keeping the relative humidity in your home between 30% and 50%.
Checking high-moisture areas, such as window sills, under-sink cabinets, and indoor plants, regularly for visible mold growth.
Increasing ventilation in your home—especially in high-moisture areas such as the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room. You can do this by installing an exhaust fan, running your HVAC system, or opening windows (as long as it is not humid outside).
Adding an air purifier to help remove mold spores from the air in your home. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning and replacing the filters. The Molekule air purifier with proprietary PECO technology destroys mold spores that pass through the device, instead of trapping them within the unit.
If you do find mold in your home or workplace, the California Department of Public Health recommends:
Reporting any mold sighting immediately to your landlord, employer or other entity in charge of the building’s safety.
Removing the source of excess moisture, such as fixing a leaky pipe.
Cleaning up any mold sites quickly and carefully.
When you are removing mold growth from your home, including removing mold from carpets, you should take certain precautions to ensure that you eliminate both the mold and the source of dampness. The EPA suggests scrubbing mold off of all hard surfaces using water and detergent and throwing away moldy fabrics such as carpets and curtains. For larger moldy areas, mold in air conditioners, or mold growth caused by contaminated water, you may need to hire an experienced professional to thoroughly and safely eliminate the problem.
It is always a good idea to limit your exposure to mold, especially if you suspect that it may be the cause of your symptoms. By keeping an eye out for signs of mold growth and preserving the overall air quality in your home, you can help protect yourself from the different types of mold-related illnesses.
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