There are many types of mold ̶ as many as 300,000 species ̶ that occur in nature and your home. The negative health impacts of mold can range from annoying to potentially severe.
At the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reviewed all scientific studies in 2004 concerning the possible connection between damp or moldy indoor places and problems with breathing or allergies.
Their findings showed significant evidence that mold growth in homes can cause asthma symptoms in people already suffering from asthma. Long-term exposure to indoor mold can be harmful to anyone, but infants, children, the elderly, people with respiratory conditions and immunocompromised patients are at greater risk.
The harmful effects of mold include:
- Nasal discharge
- Sore throat
- Watery, red and/or itchy eyes
- Chest tightness
- Breathing difficulty
Research by the University of Minnesota notes more severe symptoms that may result from continuous exposure to indoor mold toxins (mycotoxins), including:
- Aflatoxin (a potential human carcinogen)
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis/pulmonary fibrosis
- Pulmonary injury/bleeding
- Neurotoxicity (damage to the brain/nervous system)
- Blood and immune system disorders
- Gastrointestinal and cardiac conditions
More recent studies reiterate the same findings as IOM, showing an association between damp spaces, indoor mold and respiratory illnesses. Along with asthma, research shows mold may also cause a type of sinusitis and worsen existing allergies.
Other rare conditions that may come from mold exposure include hypersensitivity pneumonitis, sometimes called “farmer’s lung,” as it is associated with prolonged exposure to fungi found in feed and grain.
Contact your primary care physician if you suspect mold exposure is causing health complications. There are many treatments that can ease mold exposure symptoms, including:
- Nasal sprays: These sprays can treat inflammation caused by an upper respiratory mold allergy
- Antihistamines: This medication can help with itching, sneezing and runny nose
- Decongestants: Either nasal spray or oral decongestants may help lessen some of the symptoms
All these treatment options have side effects, so it’s important to contact your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications to treat these conditions/symptoms.