How Mold Affects Your Health

Aon Health & Wellbeing Conversation #6

Ever wondered why you always seem to have allergy-like symptoms that refuse to go away despite check-ups, medication and self-care? Mold produces substances that can cause irritation to sensitive individuals. Not everyone has a physical reaction to mold, but it can lead to health issues and in some cases, become a serious condition.
Mold is present everywhere, in colors ranging from black, white, and green to orange or purple. Mold spores are air borne and once deposited in a damp environment, they take hold and grow. Not only does mold look bad, but it can also be a major cause for allergic reactions and respiratory illnesses.
Any moist area is a potential breeding ground for mold. Indoors, they are most commonly found in bathrooms, basements, sinks, carpets, walls, panels, inside upholstered furniture, and any areas that have little or no ventilation.
Allergic reactions to mold may be sudden or manifest after a prolonged period of exposure. Some common reactions to mold include:
  • Asthma attacks
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Itching and redness of the eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Rashes and other skin irritations
  • Sneezing and runny or stuffy nose
Severe reactions would be:
  • Fever
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Mycotoxicosis – mold poisoning (if ingested)
  • Fungal infections
  • Worsening of respiratory issues for persons with pre-existing lung conditions
The risk of allergic reactions is greater among those with a family history of allergies, with occupations that subject them to moldy environments, or with poorly ventilated living and work spaces that are humid and damp. High risk groups include:
  • Infants and children
  • Elderly people
  • People with chronic lung disease
  • Individuals with auto-immune conditions
  • Immuno-compromised individuals due to HIV, liver disease, cancer, or those undergoing chemotherapy
Allergic reactions are uncomfortable. But more than the discomfort, there are complications that can be far more serious:
  • Mold-induced asthma
  • Fungal sinusitis – inflammation of the sinuses
  • Bronchopulmonary aspergillosis – occurs in people with asthma or cystic fibrosis
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis – inflamed lungs
Simple Preventive Measures
While usual allergy treatments would suffice in alleviating the discomforts from a mold reaction (as recommended by doctors, of course) reduced exposure would be the best preventive measure. Here are some tips on how to avoid exposure to molds:
  • Inspect for structural water damage, get rid of old and dampened carpets, books, newspapers, or other paper materials, and keep kitchens and bathrooms clean and dry.
  • Address flooding or water leakage issues within a day or two to prevent mold growth.
  • Wear a mask when gardening or cleaning to avoid inhalation of dust particles and mold spores.
  • Use proper protective equipment while doing a mold clean-up.
  • Install air conditioners with efficient filters that can reduce mold spores in the air (HEPA filter) and use a dehumidifier during wet weather to reduce moisture build-up.
  • Use exhaust fans or open windows in kitchens and bathrooms to allow proper ventilation.
  • Use or apply household paint with mold inhibitors on walls or ceilings.
  • On cool and damp nights, close windows to prevent airborne spores from entering your home.
  • Stay indoors during wet days and seasons.
  • Before consuming food and beverages, check their appearance and follow the best-before dates.
Preventing allergic reactions during this pandemic will spare people from the anxiety brought on by symptoms that mimic COVID-19 and avoid unnecessary home quarantine.

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