Is There Really a Correlation between Mold and Health?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, exposure to mold does not necessarily result in a health problem. In fact, molds have existed for thousands of years. Most people touch, eat or breathe some amount of mold on a daily basis, without any ill health effects. So why all the hype now?

It's true that if mold growth is active, extensive and persistent, it has the potential to cause health problems, the most common of which are allergenic reactions such as wheezing, sneezing, coughing, eye irritation, etc.

While many people seldom experience ill effects from mold exposure, some individuals are more sensitive to molds than others. The same amount of mold may cause health problems in one person, but not in another. People more susceptible to these problems include individuals with existing respiratory conditions, individuals with weakened immune systems, infants and young children, and the elderly.

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Toxic Mold Exposure: What would happen if someone kept getting their skin exposed to mold?

The dangers of toxic mold exposure when it comes to the respiratory system are, at this point, fairly well-known and well-established. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), toxic mold exposure can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, and skin irritation. People with serious allergies to molds may have more severe reactions including fever and shortness of breath; and those with chronic lung illnesses, like obstructive lung disease, may even develop mold infections in their lungs.

But what else can be a result of toxic mold exposure? Can toxic mold exposure cause a skin rash?

Can Toxic Mold Exposure Cause Skin Rashes?

In short, yes.

Allergic reactions come about when a person's immune system overreacts to a minimally harmful substance (i.e. mold), producing large quantities of antibodies and other chemicals to destroy the substance and protect the body from this perceived threat. The allergic reaction causes swelling, inflammation, and irritation of the skin. In more severe cases, this swelling can occur in the throat, impeding breathing and creating a life-threatening situation. While the swelling of the throat is a rarer occurrence in relation to toxic mold exposure, rashes and hives are not at all uncommon.

A rash from toxic mold exposure can be very itchy and it's hard not to scratch - but beware. Excessive scratching often breaks the skin and allows an infection to set in. Signs of infection include swelling, redness, warmth to the touch, fever, increased levels of pain, and discharge.

How to Treat Skin Rashes Caused by Toxic Mold Exposure

If a person has experienced an infection as a result of a rash caused by toxic mold exposure, oral antibiotics can be used to clear up the infection. However, in some cases, if the infection is too severe or doesn't seem to respond to the oral antibiotics, a more intensive treatment like hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics is required.

If the rash has not yet caused an infection, antihistamines can be used to halt or decrease allergic responses. Antihistamines like Benadryl and Allegra can be bought over-the-counter. Antihistamine creams are also an option, and can be applied directly to the rash to relieve itching. Additionally, cool bath with baking soda or colloidal oatmeal is a simple home remedy believed to relieve itching and discomfort.

Recovering from a Toxic Mold Exposure Skin Rash

Someone who is recovering from a severe infection as a result of a skin rash caused by toxic mold exposure should absolutely recover in a mold-free environment. Exposure to mold during the recovery process will only cause more rashes and itching, and with a compromised immune system, that person is less able to fight off the harmful effects of mold.

Toxic Mold Exposure Is Worse for Infants

Because of their not-yet-developed immune systems, infants and young children are of special concern when it comes to mold spore inhalation. Infants are more vulnerable to toxic exposures and ingest more dust than adults since they (and their toys) spend a lot of time on or near the floor. (Scientists once thought children were getting lead poisoning by chewing on windowsills but we've since learned that it's actually caused by lead is a component of toxic dust and mold.) Environmental Working Group found that ingestion of these spores can cause deficits in learning as well as motor skill and memory development.

Remediating Mold

If toxic mold exposure has been causing you or your loved ones to experience rashes or other health problems, it's important to remediate the mold from your home as soon as possible. Mold remediation professionals have extensive training and know how to do the job safely and thoroughly. Most will come to your home at no charge to you, offer you a free consultation, and provide important information that will benefit you even if you end up choosing the handle the mold removal on your own.

How to Prevent Toxic Mold Exposure

A great way to improve your home's indoor air quality is with a professional air duct cleaning, which rids your home of dust, mold, and other contaminants hiding in your heating and air conditioning system ductwork.

In addition to improving your home's indoor air quality as a way to prevent mold growth and mold exposure, you should also know where to look for already-existing mold. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) identifies the a few of the most common potential mold-harboring appliances and structures in your home, including refrigerators, dishwashers, drywall, subflooring, and HVAC ductwork. Additional places to look for mold growth include:

  • Basements or cellars that have been flooded
  • Underneath kitchen sinks
  • Behind walls that also house plumbing
  • Under carpeting that may have become wet
  • Attics with improper ventilation
  • Bathrooms with higher-than-normal humidity levels
  • Drapes and upholstered furniture that may have become wet
  • Books, magazines, cardboard ... anything made of paper or organic material

More info? For tips on mold prevention, check out our post: Stop Mold Growth Before it Starts, Tips to Prevent Mold Growth.

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