Mold and Health

 

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Mold and Health

October 15, 2014

 

 

What is a mold?

A mold is a type of organism that is in the fungus family. Both molds and yeasts can affect a person’s health. There are other organisms that are also types of fungus but these usually do not affect health.

 

 

What is the difference between a mold and a fungus?

The difference between the two groups mainly has to do with whether they produce spores. Molds produce spores and fungi do not.


Are molds and fungi always bad?

Molds and fungi are both naturally occurring organisms. It is expected to have some exposure to them in the normal course of events. Problems can occur when molds or fungi are present when and where they should not be, or when a person has an exaggerated reaction to the molds or fungi.


What are some of the illnesses caused by mold?

One of the ways that molds can cause illness is in people who have mold allergy. In this situation, an individual has developed a heightened sensitivity to mold spore. A second way that mold or fungus can cause health problems involves infection.


What are the symptoms of mold allergy?

People who have allergies to mold spores typically will have signs of respiratory allergy such as itchy/watery eyes, runny/stuffy nose or asthma type symptoms.

In more severe cases of asthma, there is a condition called ABPA (allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis) that involves severe, usually steroid dependent asthma that is caused by mold hypersensitivity. A person can also have an allergic fungal sinusitis which is a severe fungal infection of the sinuses that is complicated by fungal allergy.


What can you do to decrease the mold in the environment?

For people who have mold allergies, decreasing the amount of mold exposure can be quite helpful. Some molds grow outdoors on vegetation such as rotting tree stumps. These molds usually have a season in which their spores are released into the air (typically in the autumn). The important thing to remember about these outdoor mold spores is to prevent their intrusion into the indoor environment.

Other molds grow in damp indoor environments, either from increased humidity (50% or greater) or from water leakage problems. Controlling water leakage and decreasing indoor humidity to prevent mold growth as well as removal of visible mold is important.


When should I worry about mold or fungus infection?

Fungus infection usually occurs in the yeast form. This usually occurs on the skin or mucus membranes either when the local environment is overly moist or if the normal bacteria of the body are disrupted by medications. Also, yeast infections can occur at other times when there is an abnormality in immunity. This may range from more common perturbations such as diabetes or extremes of age to more rare immunodeficiencies or in cancer patients. In these situations of immunodeficiency, the yeast infection can range from mild skin/mucus membrane problems to more severe organ infection that is difficult to treat and may become life-threatening.


I’ve heard about toxic mold in buildings. What can I do to protect myself?

The phenomenon of toxic or black mold has gained great attention lately, particularly in the media. However, careful review of the scientific findings has brought much of these findings into question. At this time, the true nature and extent of toxic mold syndrome remains quite controversial and difficult to truly prove.


I’ve heard about total body mold overgrowth. Should I be concerned about this?

There are rare disorders such as CMC (Chronic Mucocutaneous Candidiasis). However, there is a popular theory that vague symptoms such as fatigue, memory loss and other nonspecific symptoms are caused by yeast overgrowth. This is another controversial area in which the scientific findings are limited and the “illness” remains difficult to truly prove.

 

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