Most of us have seen mold before, whether it’s growing on old sandwich bread or gathered in the corners of the shower. Toss out the bread or srub up the shower, and all is well. Black mold in the home is a more serious problem. Mold and mildew can grow and spread through your air conditioning ducts and damage property. It can also cause people respiratory distress.
If mold grows in all these places, can your body grow mold as well? The truth is, the human body is the ideal environment for mold. Mold is a type of fungi that can cause serious health problems. While most of us think of mold-like fungi that grow on surfaces, it can most certainly grow on the skin. And, it can colonize inside a human host.
One of the reasons mold is harmful is that it creates dangerous organic compounds called VOCs. These are highly toxic chemicals. In fact, the material safety data sheets (MSDS) that come with dangerous products list them. These toxic substances are also called mycotoxins.
There is a long list of symptoms that can occur with exposure to these mycotoxins:
Early Symptoms of Mold Exposure
Early symptoms of mold exposure are so mild that most people think nothing of it. For example, if you start a new job and find you get a runny nose each workday, you may think it’s an allergy.
If the actual cause is mold, there may be low levels present there, or you haven’t been exposed long enough to feel ill. If it is mold, your symptoms will worsen as your level of exposure increases.
As your exposure increases over time, your symptoms become more pronounces. Sometimes this takes months. Other times it’s a gradual increase over a period of years. Your runny nose may turn into medical problems like asthma, sinus infections, and bronchitis.
Digestion issues like ulcers can also occur. Some experience fatigue, joint, and muscle aches, and swollen glands. Cognitive processes can be affected as well.
How Mold Enters the Body
Mold can make its way inside your body. You can ingest mold spores or breathe them in. Ingesting mold can lead to digestive problems while breathing them in triggers of respiratory issues.
Here are the most common medical issues that result from mold exposure in the body.
Mold on the Skin
Mold can go on any biodegradable surface, and your skin falls into that category. Several things can cause mold to grow on your skin. Treatment varies according to the cause. The most common cause is excess moisture on the skin.
Another is an excess of yeast buildup on the skin, which is a type of fungal infection. Keeping humidity levels low in your home, and keeping your skin as dry as possible helps to prevent mold from growing on any surface, including the skin.
You can also seek medical treatment if you suspect an infection of some type. Once you do, remember that clothing can hold mold spores. Be sure you wash your clothing and bedding in hot water before you use them again.
Topical Treatments for Mold on the Skin
Some treatments that aid in removing mold from the skin include dandruff shampoo for your scalp and athlete’s foot cream. Other natural remedies are vinegar soaks, geranium essential oil, or black walnut tincture. Coconut and lavender oil have antifungal properties, as does Selsun Blue shampoo and tea tree oil.
Digestive Issues from Mold Exposure
While digestive issues from mold aren’t as common as respiratory, they do occur. Problems can arise that include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and intestinal bleeding and cramping. People can also develop yeast and bacterial infections in the gut.
If you’re having gastrointestinal issues, see your doctor. Let your physician know if you think you have been exposed to mold. Also disclose if you’ve had any respiratory symptoms like sneezing, coughing, or headaches.
It is challenging to diagnose mold as the cause of digestive problems because many other things cause the same symptoms. Your doctor may have to order tests to rule out other potential causes like parasites, viruses, ulcers, and food poisoning. Other causes include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), food allergies, and celiac disease.
Treatment varies according to the symptoms and severity of your condition. Doctors can prescribe medication to relieve diarrhea and nausea, for example. If you have an infection, then antibiotics or antifungal medicines can also help. Sometimes, patients experience both digestive and respiratory symptoms at the same time. So, treatment will be concurrent in those cases.
Of course, you must also find and eradicate the source for mold exposure in your home or workplace. Otherwise, your symptoms will persist and worsen.
Respiratory Issues from Mold Exposure
One type of mold that affects the respiratory system is the Aspergillosis Fumigatus mold. When you breathe in Aspergillosis spores, you can develop an infection that causes coughing, wheezing, chest pain, and a fever. If your immune system is healthy, you may not feel any effects from Aspergillus exposure. Though, people with chronic lung problems or weakened immune systems are more susceptible.
Pulmonary Aspergillosis develops in people who have damaged lungs or lung disorders. These conditions create abnormal spaces in the lungs where fungus can grow. Mold spores can colonize inside lung cavities that exist due to diseases like emphysema and tuberculosis.
When the mold infection travels through the bloodstream, other organs can be infected, such as the brain, skin, kidneys, and liver. This is an extremely serious condition and can be fatal.
Up to ten percent of the population has had an allergic reaction to Aspergillosis. This is called Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA). As a result, the lungs and air passages become inflamed. Symptoms are similar to those with cystic fibrosis or asthma. People experience coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.
Other symptoms of Aspergillosis include chills, shortness of breath, liver or kidney failure, and shock. Severe cases can include bleeding from the lungs, coughing blood, worsening of asthma, and increased mucus secretions.
Mold is a fungus that can thrive anywhere there’s moisture and biodegradable material available. Mold can colonize on almost any surface in your environment, as well as on and inside of you.
Your body can grow mold and cause severe damage to your skin, respiratory system, and digestive system. If you suspect mold as the source of your ailments, see your doctor right away.