Molds are organisms that reproduce by releasing spores that create mold colonies when the spores settle on damp surfaces. The increased number of mold colonies can destroy the surfaces they feed off of and digest. During their life cycle, mold colonies can cause significant medical problems. These can be reactions to the spores or to mycotoxins, which are dangerous chemical byproducts of mold that, according to the National Institutes of Health, can cause death in humans and animals. Mold inhalation can be dangerous and can cause chronic side effects.
Mold inhalation can cause allergic reactions, even in people who have not previously had allergies. Continued exposure, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, can lead to increased sensitivity and worsening of symptoms. Allergic reaction to mold can cause headaches, sneezing, runny nose and hives, which are indications of a histamine response to an allergen. In addition, inhaling mold spores can irritate the bronchial tract and trigger asthma attacks.
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is a lung disease characterized by inflammation of the lungs. Chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis can lead to scarring of the lungs, an irreversible condition that decreases lung capacity. Acute hypersensitivity pneumonitis produces fever, chills and coughing and generally resolves on it's own, once the individual is no longer exposed to the mold.
Sinusitis is caused by inhalation of an irritant. Mold spores enter the nasal cavity and migrate to one of four sinus cavities. The tissues of the sinuses become inflamed and swollen, and the ensuing pressure causes pain. A person suffering from sinusitis experiences sinus headaches and nasal discharge and these can lead to infection.
Cognitive and Mood Problems
Exposure to mold, according to the Florida Department of Health, can cause cognitive problems such as memory loss and mood swings. In some individuals, these can lead to depression, fatigue and loss of interest in everyday activities. Mycotoxins can cause sleep disturbances and if left untreated, can lead to neurological problems such as impaired balance and difficulty walking.
Mycotoxins, according to the "Journal of Environmental Health," can become embedded in the mucous membrane lining of the digestive system. This can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, internal hemorrhaging and abnormal liver values. If your body is already immunocompromised by these symptoms, you are at increased risk of a systemic infection, which is potentially fatal.
- Environmental Protection Agency: Introduction to Molds
- National Institutes of Health: Mycotoxins
- Florida State University: A Review of Inhalation Exposure to Mold and Adverse Health Outcomes
- "Journal of Environmental Health"; Is indoor mold contamination a threat to health?
- Florida Department of Health: Indoor Mold and Health