Mold exposure does not always present a health problem indoors. However some people (about 20% of the human population) are sensitive to molds. Symptoms of mold exposure are primarily allergic reactions involving the upper respiratory system. Also referred to as mold allergy, the symptoms can include:
Runny or stuffy nose
Cough and postnasal drip
Itchy eyes, nose and throat
Symptoms of mold exposure vary from individual to individual, and range from mild to severe. Some individuals may have year-round symptoms or symptoms that flare up only during certain times of the year when the allergens are present. Currently no exposure limits have been established. The large number of mold species and strains present in the environment and the large inter-individual variability in human response to mold exposure make it difficult to establish exposure limits.
For individuals with mold allergy and asthma, their asthma symptoms may be triggered by exposure to mold spores. In some people, exposure to certain molds can cause a severe asthma attack. Signs and symptoms of asthma include:
Shortness of breath
On some rare occasions, effects of mold exposure may include infections and toxic effects. Serious infections from living molds are relatively rare and occur mainly in people with severely compromised immune system. Many types of molds may produce toxins but only under certain growth conditions. Toxic effects have been reported from eating moldy grain, but evidence is weak that inhaling mold spores in buildings causes toxic effects.
Prevention of mold exposure and ensuing health issues include control of mold growth in the first place by rectifying the moisture problems. Failure to completely dry out building materials after extensive flooding and water damage can result in extensive mold growth.
If you are concerned about mold exposure, check your home to make sure there are no hidden areas of mold growth. Speak to your doctor if you have had previous mold exposure, and discuss any symptoms you may be experiencing.
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Dr. Jackson Kung'u works for MBL, a laboratory that specializes in identification and enumeration of mold and bacteria commonly detected in air, fluids and bulk samples collected from homes, schools, offices, hospitals, industrial, agricultural, and other work environments. Jackson also provides a unique Mold Training Course on How to Recognize Indoor Mold, Develop Effective Sampling Strategies, Interpret Laboratory Results and how to Control Mold Growth.