We live in a world of toxic-overload, and one of the biggest environmental health threats causing problems today is mold.
Mold is highly toxic for humans as well as pets. Mold can grow on anything as long as there is moisture and bacteria to feed it. In fact, you may unknowingly be living in a moldy house. Sometimes mold is visible, but many times it remains hidden behind walls, vents, shower tiles or wet ceilings.
Concern about indoor exposure to mold has increased, as more has been learned about the variety of health problems it can cause. There are thousands of mold species and several mold toxins that are associated with serious physical and mental disorders.
In fact, several organizations including the World Health Organization recommend prevention of mold growth in order to protect the health of building occupants and workers involved in mold cleanup and prevention.
Here are 10 warning signs and symptoms of mold toxicity that you must know.
The first common warning sign of black mold toxicity is frequent headaches.
Exposure to an area with black mold for several hours can trigger a headache as a result of an allergic reaction to mold spores in the air. The headache can also be due to inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nasal cavities.
When working or sitting around black mold and inhaling the air, your head will start throbbing. This is a sign that your body is trying to fight off the spores that are entering your system. The headache will get better once you leave the area and go into an open space and start inhaling fresh air.
If you are spending time in a mold-affected home or office and you get frequent headaches, it’s time to take the problem seriously before your headaches take a toll on your health.
2. Watery and Itchy Eyes
Another warning sign of black mold poisoning is watery and itchy eyes.
Mycotoxins present in the air due to mold can easily enter your eyes. When the mycotoxins come into contact with the cells in your eyes, they cause your eyes to water and become itchy.
You may also notice your throat becoming itchy. This is a common issue related to black mold toxicity.
Other eye problems include inflammation in the eyes, soreness, bloodshot eyes and blurry vision, to name a few.
3. Excessive Coughing
The third common warning sign of black mold exposure is excessive coughing and mucus.
Not everyone exposed to mold develops a cough, but many people do, especially with prolonged exposure. Infants, small children, elderly people and those with respiratory or immune system disorders are at an increased risk of developing a cough due to mold.
Even a small patch of black mold produces several mold spores, which can easily become airborne. Once inhaled, these spores can irritate the sensitive lining of the throat, causing a cough.
In the long run, heavy exposure to mold can also lead to bronchitis and pneumonia, which also cause coughing.
As a cough can be caused by a cold or other respiratory viruses, influenza, seasonal allergies, bronchitis and pneumonia, you must see a doctor to find out what exactly is causing you to cough.
4. Frequent Asthma Attacks
Another common warning sign of mold toxicity is frequent asthma attacks. Mold spores can deposit on the lining of the nose and can reach the lungs to cause asthma.
Exposure to mold can make symptoms worse in people previously diagnosed with asthma. They may start having asthma attacks more often, attacks may last longer and they may seem more severe. Medications that previously helped may not provide relief from the symptoms.
A 2003 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that dampness exacerbates preexisting respiratory conditions like asthma.
Mold exposure can even cause asthma-like symptoms in people that did not previously have the condition. Your chest may feel tight, you may have difficulty getting enough air and you may start wheezing loudly.
A 2011 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives reported that mold exposure during early childhood increases the risk of asthma by 80 percent.
If asthma leads to trouble breathing, see your doctor immediately before things become worse.
Hives, which appear as itchy red bumps or blotches on the skin, is another warning sign of being exposed to black mold.
Toxic mold spores can enter your body through the minute pores present on your skin. The immune system reacts to mold as a harmful substance and in turn triggers hives. The rash can be very itchy and excessive scratching can even cause a skin infection.
Apart from mold toxicity, hives can be triggered by pet dander, pollen, certain foods and many medications. However, if you are living in a mold-infested home, chances are high that it is triggered by mold.
Exposure to mold can lead to depression. So, if you are living in a damp and moldy home and you are getting depressed, then it’s time to take it as a warning sign of mold toxicity.
A 2007 study conducted by the Brown University School of Medicine and published in the American Journal of Public Health found that there is a link between exposure to household mold and the development of depressive disorders.
Experts are still not sure as to how mold toxicity can cause depression, but it is surely a risk factor.
As depression can take a toll on your mental and physical well-being, get it treated by a reputable doctor. You may also need support of your family and friends to fight depression.
7. Digestive Problems
Frequent and prolonged exposure to household mold can trigger gastrointestinal problems.
Your digestive system can be affected by mold toxicity when you inhale the harmful substances called mycotoxins that are produced by mold. Mycotoxins can also be absorbed through the skin, which in turn can affect the digestive system.
Hence, if you are suddenly experiencing issues like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and intestinal cramping, be aware of the fact that it could be due to mold toxicity.
8. Low Energy Level
Low energy is another common warning sign of mold exposure.
There are several explanations as mold toxicity can cause symptoms that make you feel very tired. For example, constant coughing as well as asthma can limit the amount of oxygen you take in, which in turn makes you feel tired.
Moreover, if coughing and a headache keeps you awake at night, you’ll obviously feel tired the next day.
Low energy is a common symptom of many illnesses and infections, so it is best to see a doctor to find out what’s making you so tired.
9. Joint Pain
While respiratory problems and allergy-type symptoms are more common signs of mold exposure, joint pain is another warning sign of long-term exposure to mold.
Though experts do not understand the relationship between mycotoxins and joint pain, it is certain that prolonged exposure to mold can lead to joint pain.
If you have been living in a moldy house and often suffer from joint pain, it could be due to mold toxicity. Such pain often resembles rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia.
10. Sleep Problems
In some people, exposure to mold can lead to sleep problems, another warning sign of mold toxicity.
In particular, you may find it difficult to sleep soundly in a damp or moldy room like a basement due to a peculiar odor. In addition, once you become aware that mold is harmful for your health, it can cause stress and anxiety, which in turn can give you sleepless nights.
On top of that, mold toxicity may result in irritated and inflamed nasal passages, causing respiratory problems. This can also lead to poor sleep.
- Fix leaks and other water problems as soon as possible.
- Scrub mold off hard surfaces as soon as you notice it.
- Discard absorbent materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, if they become moldy.
- Do not hide moldy surfaces with paint. Clean it up instead, or before you paint.
- Keep air conditioning drip pans clean.
- Make sure water does not enter or collect around the foundation of your home.
- Keep the indoor humidity between 30 and 50 percent.
- Do not install carpeting in areas where moisture problems may develop.
- Use air filters and purifiers to get rid of mold particles as well as dust and pet dander from the air.