Mold is a form of fungus that thrives in warm and damp areas. In homes, mold can grow in places where these conditions are met, such as in bathrooms, basements, or even behind drywall on the home’s wooden frame if it gets wet. Mold can often go undetected because of where it grows, so mold exposure can occur to people without them even realizing it.
While mold exposure can harm your health, that’s not always the case. There are various types of mold, some of which are considered toxic. Even so, not all people will experience the effects of mold exposure. For example, one person may feel ill while another experiences no symptoms.
So what are the adverse effects of mold exposure, exactly? And will mold exposure show up in bloodwork?
What are the negative health effects of mold exposure?
As mentioned, while mold isn’t always dangerous, it can be – especially for people who have a mold allergy or sensitivity. Exposure in people with mold allergies leads to the release of histamines within the body. These cause a person to experience symptoms such as:
- Nose stuffiness
- Red or itchy eyes
- Skin rash
- Sore throat
In some cases, allergy symptoms can be more severe and lead to an asthma attack. This type of reaction occurs in people with asthma or chronic respiratory disease.
The adverse health effects of mold also affect people with a weakened immune system more severely than others. Because their immune system isn’t as prepared to fight off the mold’s effects, it can lead to lung infections caused by inhaled mold spores.
Some research has suggested that mold may be a factor in asthma development in school-age children.
How does a person get tested for mold exposure?
Diagnosing mold exposure isn’t always the most straightforward task. No single test can determine whether a person is suffering from mold exposure. Since the symptoms are the same as those that develop in people with other types of allergies, mold may not always be the first thing health care providers think of.
Typically, mold exposure is detected by starting with collating symptoms and health history. A type of allergy test, known as a skin prick test, is then used to detect a mold allergy. The test is conducted by first taking a small needle and covering it with mold. The needle is then pricked into the skin at a particular area, usually on the arm. Once the prick has been administered, the medical provider will wait for a reaction. If nothing happens, it’s unlikely that a person is allergic to mold. However, if the patient develops bumps, a rash, or hives after the skin prick test, they are likely allergic and could have been exposed to symptom-causing mold.
Can you get a blood test for mold exposure?
Another way that health care providers can investigate possible mold exposure is through a blood test. The test doesn’t necessarily look for a reaction within the blood when exposed to mold. Instead, it looks for any actions the immune system may have taken in response to mold exposure.
A medical provider will take a blood sample to perform a blood test for mold exposure. The sample is performed the same way a routine blood test would be, and the blood is then sent to a lab for analysis. When investigating mold exposure using a blood test, laboratory technicians will examine the blood to see if it contains specific antibodies.
Antibodies are special proteins created by the body in response to pathogens. They help fight off infections and other illnesses. If a person has a high number of mold-specific antibodies, it may indicate that there has been exposure to the fungus, and the immune system has reacted accordingly.
What blood test can show mold exposure?
The type of blood test used to check for mold exposure is called the radioallergosorbent test. The antibodies examined in this specific test are known as immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies are associated with allergies and play a role in regulating and responding to allergy-causing substances.
If results come back positive for mold exposure, the person will require treatment. The treatment used will depend entirely on the symptoms and is based solely on managing those symptoms.
If exposed to symptom-causing mold, the best thing you can do is get rid of the mold in your home or avoid the area. Mold exposure isn’t always harmful to your health, but it can be, so it’s better to rid your environment of mold than risk negative health consequences.