Types of Symptoms from Mold
There are three main types of symptoms mold can cause:
- Allergic and irritant symptoms
- Toxic symptoms
Allergic Symptoms from Mold Exposure
Most mold symptoms are caused by mold allergies. When you breathe in mold spores your immune systems responds by creating allergic reactions. These reactions are the immune system’s defense against foreign particles entering the body.
The more a person is around mold the more sensitive to it they will become. This means that they can end up unable to tolerate being around even small amounts of mold. Their allergic reactions will also become more and more severe.
Symptoms that mold allergies cause include:
- Cold or flu like symptoms
- Sore throat
- Irritated, itchy throat
- Blocked nose
- Itchy nose
- Runny nose
- Sinus congestion
- Sinus headaches
- Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
- Irritated, itchy skin
- Skin rash, hives
- Watery eyes
- Red, bloodshot eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Itchy ears
- Hair loss, baldness
- Hay fever symptoms
Toxic Symptoms from Exposure to Toxic Mold
There are about 16 mold species which are toxic to humans. These molds put out highly toxic chemicals called mycotoxins.
Mycotoxins cause toxic symptoms which are much worse than the allergic symptoms caused by ordinary molds. Some of the symptoms caused by toxic molds include bleeding, damage to internal organs, mental impairment, cancer and even death in some cases.
The symptoms caused by the most notorious toxic mold, Stachybotrys chartarum (often called toxic black mold or just black mold).
Sometimes mold spores that are breathed into a person’s lungs begin to grow inside them. Mold infections like this can also grow in the sinuses, skin or digestive system.
These mold infections usually don’t occur in healthy people. Elderly people or those who are sick with compromised or suppressed immune systems can suffer these infections though, since their immune systems might not be strong enough to fight off the mold. Sometimes these mold infections can even cause death.
Mold species that can opportunistically infect people include Trichoderma, Penicillium marneffei and Aspergillus fumigatus.
Testing for Mold Symptoms
Physical Examination for Mold Symptoms
There are a few different tests available to determine if you have mold allergies. These tests can be performed for you by a medical professional such as a doctor or allergist.
One way is for a doctor to conduct a simple physical examination to identify if you have mold allergies. By identifying the visible physical symptoms along with you describing all your symptoms, the doctor can identify if you have allergic reactions caused by a mold allergy.
Skin Tests for Mold Symptoms
Another way to detect mold allergies is through a skin test. This test can be done in the doctor or allergist’s office where they will insert tiny drops of purified mold allergens into the surface of your skin and observe the reaction.
Skin tests are actually more reliable than blood tests, although neither can detect allergies to every mold species as purified mold allergens from every type of mold are not available for allergy tests.
Blood Tests for Mold Symptoms
The next type of test you can have performed to detect mold allergies is blood tests. These involve a sample of your blood being taken and then examined for the presence of mold antibodies.
The MELISA (Memory Lymphocyte Immunostimulation Assay) test is one such test. The MELISA test can detect allergies to chemicals, toxins, and mold, including toxic molds such as Aspergillus and Penicillium.
Like the skin test the MELISA test detects allergies by applying allergens to the sample and identifying whether there is a heightened reaction. Also like the skin test the MELISA test does not measure the amount of a mold’s toxins or allergens in a person’s body, only whether the person has an allergic reaction to that mold.
Other similar blood tests are the ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay) and the RAST (radioallergosorbent) test.
Treatment for Mold Symptoms
While there are medications and shots which you can take to treat mold allergies, the best response is to avoid exposure to mold and mold spores as much as possible.
If you have mold in your home your first priority should be to get rid of it. By removing mold and its spores from your environment you will no longer be breathing in mold allergens, the cause of your allergic reactions, and you will quickly get better.
Even if there is no longer mold in your home a build up of mold spores can still cause allergic symptoms and can also lead to new mold growth. Vacuum and clean regularly to minimize allergy-causing spores.
Avoiding Food Mold
If you have mold allergies you might also find that your reactions increase after eating certain foods which contain fungus such as mushrooms and yeast.
Be sure to avoid any foods which you notice have caused you allergies in the past and before eating check food for signs of mold, especially foods such as cheese, bread and fruit which mold can readily grow on if past the use by date.
Medications for Mold Symptoms
You can also take medications to reduce your allergic reaction to mold. There is medicine for allergies which you can buy directly from the pharmacy such as claratyne or zyrtec or there is medication which a doctor can prescribe for you. These usually come in the form of pills or nasal sprays.
Consult your doctor or an allergist to find out what medicine you can take for allergies and be sure to carefully follow the directions of any medications you use. It should also be remembered that these types of medications only lessen the symptoms of allergic reactions, they do not cure you of the allergy or make you any less allergic to mold in the future.
Shots for Mold Symptoms
As a final treatment option you can be given shots for allergies. However shots are usually only recommended if other medications haven’t worked as there are some disadvantages.
In order for you to receive shots the mold allergen that is affecting you needs to be identified. Also, you might need to take shots regularly for months or even years for them to remain effective. Like other medications, shots don’t cure allergies, they just increase your tolerance to allergens and therefore lessen the symptoms of an allergic reaction.