Mold is a type of fungus that grows nearly everywhere, both inside and outside the home, but thrives most in warm, wet, and humid environments.
When your home has suffered from water damage, mold should be one of your biggest concerns as a homeowner. Different types of mold can grow on just about any surface that has been damaged due to flooding, plumbing issues, or even small leaks, which can cause significant health risks to those living in the home.
The most common health symptoms of exposure to mold include:
- Nasal stuffiness
- Eye irritation
- Skin irritation or rashes
- Wheezing, coughing, or other respiratory issues
People with mold allergies or pre-existing respiratory conditions are more susceptible to these health effects, but even perfectly healthy individuals can be affected.
What Types of Mold Make You Sick?
While many types of mold are merely cosmetic, there are three main classes of mold found in your home that can cause illness and have an impact on your health: allergenic, pathogenic, and toxic molds.
As the name suggests, allergenic mold has the largest impact on those who suffer from mold allergies. This class of mold is typically harmless in small quantities, but can be problematic for allergy sufferers. A few dozen classes of mold can cause allergic symptoms.
Molds produce spores in order to reproduce. These spores float through the air, looking to attach on to surfaces. When these spores are inhaled, they can cause allergic reactions.
Approximately 20-30% of people experience allergic responses to these types of mold.
Health Effects of Allergenic Mold
Common allergic reactions include hay fever symptoms such as itchy eyes and nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, runny mucus, and a phlegmy throat. Those with mold allergies can also have asthma attacks triggered by prolonged exposure to mold.
More serious cases can result in allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, whose symptoms include severe shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing.
Pathogenic mold is more harmful to the population as a whole. This classification of molds causes infections—even in people who are otherwise in perfect health.
These infections are known as mycoses, which vary in severity. They can either infect skin, hair, nails, or muscles (superficial, cutaneous, subcutaneous mycoses), or infect deeper organs like the lungs, bones, or central nervous system (deep organ mycoses).
These differ from allergens in that these types of mold actually grow on human tissue, either on the skin or internal organs.
Health Effects of Pathogenic Mold
Pathogenic mold can cause mycoses that result in a variety of ailments or symptoms such as chronic coughs, bloody mucus, loss of appetite, sudden or gradual weight loss, wheezing, chest pain, muscle aches, headaches, skin irritation, and more.
Many mycoses are asymptomatic, but can have long-term impacts on the lungs, bones, and neural structures of the brain.
Toxic or toxigenic molds produce chemicals that are poisonous to humans and animals. Also known as mycotoxins, toxic molds are produced by fungal spores and can live on in fungal material. In some cases, these spores can live in even after the mold itself has been cleaned with bleach.
In contrast to pathogenic molds that cause damage by growing on or inside the human body, toxic molds do their damage by creating a toxin that is itself damaging to the human body.
Health Effects of Toxic Mold
As it’s poisonous, toxic mold is dangerous to touch or ingest. If you find toxic mold in your home, do not attempt to clean it up yourself. Contact a mold professional or water restoration specialist to ensure that the mold is removed safely, quickly, and effectively.
Exposure to toxic mold can range from temporary skin irritation to serious, long-term illnesses such as immunosuppression, cancer or neurological disorders.
How to Detect and Remove Mold From Your Home
Mold is likely to appear in damp areas of your home, including your kitchen, bathrooms, or basement. While some mold is easy to spot, it will quite often grow behind walls or underneath surfaces like wallpaper. Mold has a strong, musty smell, so when it comes to finding mold, it’s better to follow your nose.
If you find mold in your home, or you suspect there may be mold in your home causing unwanted health effects, call a mold removal and remediation specialists.
CDC. (2014) Mold Basic Facts. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm
National Center for Biotechnology Information. (1996) Medical Microbiology 4th Edition – Chapter 75 – Spectrum of Mycoses. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK7902/
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. (2015) Mold Allergy. Retrieved from: http://www.aafa.org/page/mold-allergy.aspx
InspectAPedia. (2017) Mold Classes & Classes of Mold-Related Illness. Retrieved from: http://inspectapedia.com/mold/Classifications_of_Mold_Contamination.php