There are several different types of mold that can grow in your home. Some are completely harmless. “Innocent” mold – the type that won’t cause toxic effects – will be a nuisance in the sense that it can cause discoloration of walls and has a musty smell. Over time, however, this type of mold can pose a threat to the structure of a building and lead to some expensive repairs. It can also affect your health, but primarily in minimal ways, like triggering allergies.
While innocent mold can be an annoyance, toxic mold can be actively detrimental to your health – and can even cause serious issues if it is not addressed quickly. But the problem with mold is that it can be hard to determine what type you’re dealing with, or whether there is even mold at all, since it can easily grow within the walls of your home and thus can’t be seen until a wall is removed or the smell becomes overbearing.
This dangerous mold is the type that needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible. Read on to find out how to spot dangerous mold, what to do about it, and when you might need to see your doctor.
What types of dangerous mold are there?
There are thousands of different strains of mold, but only a few produce toxins that can lead to health problems. The six types of mold that can lead to health issues include:
- Stachybotrys chartarum (also referred to as black mold)
Although all of these can produce toxic effects, the most dangerous is black mold. (Note that black mold can often be confused with other types of mold because other types can be black in color but not have the same toxic effects.) When black mold grows in your home, it releases spores at the same time as feeding on materials such as carpet, insulation, sub-flooring, and drywall. When the spores it releases are ingested, they can lead to dangerous side effects.
The second most dangerous type of mold is Chaetomium. Although it’s not as widely known as black mold, it can also cause severe health problems if the spores are ingested.
What are the health effects of mold?
The health effects of mold will differ depending on the type; with black mold, for example, people can suffer from multiple health issues after long-term exposure. Symptoms that may appear if toxic mold is present in your home include problems with breathing, fatigue, sinusitis, depression, aches and pains in the sinus cavities, as well as respiratory symptoms such as burning of the throat and lungs, chest pain, and a cough that doesn’t go away. Black mold can also cause fever and migraines.
Some symptoms of overexposure to Chaetomium mold include trouble breathing, allergy symptoms, neurological damage, and the onset of autoimmune disease. Other types of mold that can negatively affect health do so minimally and are usually characterized as asthmatic or allergy symptoms.
How do you know if your home has toxic mold?
It can be hard to determine if your house has toxic mold, especially if it is hiding within the structure and cannot be seen easily. There are a few signs to look out for if you suspect you may have mold. The first and most obvious is the musty smell. This smell will appear before you’re able to see the mold unless it’s in an obvious place.
In the case where mold is growing in an area outside of the internal structure of your home, you will be able to see either stains or discoloration of walls. These signs should not be ignored – as soon as you notice them, you should get a professional opinion on whether or not they are caused by mold or something else.
How do you know if mold is making you sick?
Since the symptoms of mold exposure are non-specific, it can be difficult to determine whether or not you’re sick from mold or another illness. You’ll want to pay attention to your symptoms’ onset, the length of time they’ve been going on, and whether anyone else in the house is experiencing them.
What are the symptoms of mold exposure?
Since mold will affect people in different ways, it can be hard to determine it as the cause of certain symptoms. However, be aware that symptoms of mold exposure can include:
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Watery, itchy, or red eyes
- Runny nose
- Sinusitis that will not go away
- Headaches or migraines
- Joint pain
- Muscles aches, pains, or cramping
- Persistent nerve pain
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Frequent infections such as cold or flu infections
- General fatigue or weakness
- Brain fog that could hinder focus and memory
In the most severe cases, mold spores can be inhaled, take root, and begin to grow within the body. This can lead to respiratory illness and sinus infections that are serious in nature.
If you or anyone in your household is experiencing any of these symptoms, or you have an underlying health condition such as an autoimmune disease or asthma, it’s best to visit your doctor and have your home checked for mold.
Can my doctor test me for mold exposure?
Since there are no proven tests a doctor can perform to check for mold exposure, it can be difficult to determine if you have been exposed. Your doctor will likely order a blood test following a review of your symptoms. The blood test is designed to check for antibodies and sensitivities to mold. They may also do a skin prick test, which involves pricking the skin with a tiny needle to test for an allergy to a type of mold.
The best way to handle mold exposure and recover from its toxic effects is by getting it out of your house and listening to your doctor’s advice. It can be hard to tell if you have been exposed to dangerous mold in your house, but by being diligent with your home and your health, you can avoid serious health complications.
Featured image by Avinash Kumar on Unsplash