None of us like to think about mold; it’s fuzzy, rank, and just gross. And most of us know that in some form or fashion, mold is bad for us. But what sort of a health hazard is it anyway?
In most cases, mold doesn’t pose much of a risk to healthy adults, but there are some cases where it can be extremely dangerous. From systemic infections to mold poisoning and asthma attacks, too much exposure to mold can cause serious problems for some people. Read on to learn more about the dangers mold poses to your health and what you can do to prevent them.
What Is Mold?
Before we get into mold as a health hazard, let’s take a look at what mold is in the first place. Mold is a kind of fungus that grows in multicellular filaments. They’re from the same basic family as yeast, mushrooms, and a variety of other organisms that we interact with with no problems every day.
You may be surprised to learn that you can see those multicellular filaments that define mold. They form fine strands across a surface, which is what makes mold look fuzzy. These strands are clear, so if mold appears to be colored, what you’re seeing are the reproductive spores the fungus produces.
How Common Is It?
You may also be surprised to learn that mold is present in almost every area of your house. Yes, even if you clean thoroughly, mold, like yeast, shows up in any building where there’s moisture. In most cases, the mold growth is small enough that you’ll never notice it.
Mold spores live in both indoor and outdoor environments. They can enter your home through windows, doors, air conditioning system, and vents. The places where you start to notice mold growths are spots where there’s a leak or some other excess moisture.
One of the biggest concerns with mold exposure is that you might get mold poisoning, also known as mycotoxicosis. We should note that this is not a common problem in healthy adults. It tends to impact children, older adults, or those with compromised immune systems.
Mycotoxicosis can cause cold- and flu-like symptoms – runny nose, scratchy throat, aches, and respiratory problems. It can also cause headaches and fatigue, as well as diarrhea. Some people may also develop skin issues, including itchy, dry skin or hair loss.
A more common problem with mold exposure in the home is mold allergies. Somewhere between 3 and 10 percent of people have mold allergies that make their systems act up when they’re exposed to mold. This can sometimes be linked to asthma, which can be incredibly dangerous.
In most cases, a simple mold allergy will cause upper respiratory problems. You may get a runny or stuffed-up nose, and you might start sneezing. Symptoms could also include a cough, itchy or watery eyes, a scratchy throat, or dry, scaly skin.
If you have asthma, exposure to mold can be especially risky for you. On its own, mold exposure can be a risk factor for asthma attacks. But in combination with a mold allergy, which is common among severe asthmatics, mold exposure can trigger dangerous asthma attacks.
During an asthma attack, the muscles around your airways contract, and your body dials up the amount of mucus those airways produce. This makes it hard for you to get enough air into your lungs, which can become a life-threatening problem if it’s not treated. If you know you have a mold allergy and you have asthma, be sure to always carry a rescue inhaler with you, since mold exposure can happen anywhere.
In some rare cases, mold exposure may lead to a systemic fungal infection. These can be extremely dangerous, and even life-threatening if left untreated. In the most extreme cases of invasive aspergillosis, you may get a fever and chills, start coughing up blood, have shortness of breath, or develop skin lesions.
This form of fungal infection is extremely rare. It occurs only in people who are in treatment for cancer and have undergone chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants, or an immune system disease. Other forms of aspergillosis can also occur in people with chronic lung conditions such as emphysema, tuberculosis, or sarcoidosis.
High Risk Factors
The biggest risk factors for negative reactions to mold are age-related. Very young children and older adults tend to have weaker immune systems and so tend to react more strongly to mold. If you have young kids or older people in your home, be sure to keep the moisture levels as low as possible and call a mold removal service if needed.
These measures are also important if you have someone with asthma or a compromised immune system living in your home. People who are immunocompromised are at the highest risk, since they are the ones who could develop fungal infections. If everyone in your household is a healthy adult and you don’t have excessive mold growths, you probably don’t have anything to worry about.
Learn More About Mold as a Health Hazard
Reactions to mold are relatively rare, but for certain people, they can be life-threatening. From mycotoxicosis to aspergillosis, mold exposure can be a huge health hazard and cause a range of dangerous and uncomfortable symptoms. So if you think you have excessive mold growths in your home, don’t wait to get them taken care of.
If you need to get rid of mold in your home, get in touch with us at Clean First. We’re Toronto’s leading mold removal service, and we can help you check for and remove mold from your home. Contact us today and start restoring your peace of mind.