Mold: It's Everywhere

Sean E. Heerey ND, MA, CCC/SLP

When we think of mold we think of basements or old, damp, rags that are left in the garage or workshop. Many children have done school experiments with white bread or oranges and are pleasantly surprised by the green and blue molds that are produced. Even in the refrigerator mold can be found. The smell is very distinct.

Some people know the minute they walk into a home that mold is present. We may not see it, but our nose knows! Mold is ubiquitous in our environment. It is a type of fungus and there are thousands of known varieties of molds. In nature, molds promote decay and rot and work to decompose organic matter. Molds need adequate humidity and temperature for optimal growth. Mold spores can breed in standing water. Mold collects on fallen leaves. Piles of bark mulch, leaves and grass clipping are a perfect place for mold to flourish. Some people need to use caution when raking leaves or when doing extended amounts of yard work as this can stir allergens into the air.

People can be sensitive or allergic to molds. Diagnosing a mold allergy is very difficult because mold can affect the body in a variety of different ways. Coughing, wheezing, sinus problems and post-nasal drip are common symptoms, but some individuals may develop headaches, itchy rash or joint pain, memory problems and sudden changes in mood/behavior, depression, anger and aggression.

A recent journal article stated that toxins from mold that were found growing on nuts or corn can weaken the immune system. This in turn makes the body more susceptible to respiratory diseases and can exacerbate existing ones.

Even though mold is everywhere you can still takes measures to protect yourself, both outdoors and inside your home:

1. Wear a mask when raking leaves or working in the yard.

2. Changes your clothes after working outside as mold, and pollens, can adhere to clothing.

3. Take off your shoes before entering your home.

4. Remove all porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and that cannot be thoroughly cleaned and dried. Such items can remain a source of mold growth and should be removed from your home.

5. To prevent mold growth, clean wet items and surfaces with vinegar and water.
6. Use a dehumidifier if you live in a damp part of the world. It helps reduce indoor mold growth.
7. Remove carpet from home as the carpet and padding are perfect breeding grounds for mold spores, especially if the carpet has ever been steam cleaned.
8. Keep windows closed during humid or damp days. This just invites mold into the home.

These helpful tips can keep you and your family safer and lower the risk of reacting to mold.

Dropper for Sublingual Immunotherapy

Sublingual Immunotherapy

Your immune system is a complex connection tasked with the responsibility of fighting infection and handling possible threats to the health and safety of the human body. It is a complex network that develops strengths, weaknesses, and specific reactions to chemical compounds and microorganisms.  An immune system can target and identify these substances or microorganisms and coordinate an effective response. This response is often a way to protect the body from the potential effects or side-effects from the substance or microorganism.

Sometimes, the immune system can get confused, as it works to identify different substances, and might actually create something called an allergy.

An allergy is the response of an immune system to a particular substance that the immune system considers dangerous and the resulting response can be something as simple as a little itchiness, to full on anaphylactic shock. However, some reactions are more subtle and mild, but can sometimes worsen over time. These immune system reactions are called allergic reactions and can be severe, even causing serious health issues or becoming life-threatening. The difficult part about allergens is that they could be common household substances that you are exposed to on a daily basis and aren't aware of. It could include pet hair, dust, molds, pollen, cleaners, foods and even plants.

Fortunately, most allergic reactions to substances are minor. Some more serious reactions can lead to death if not treated immediately. There are possible methods to reducing the severity of an allergic reaction. Immunotherapy is the concept that is built around this idea. Traditional immunotherapy uses injections to expose the body to a small amount of the allergen and the immune system can pick up on the tiny amount, but does not react strongly because the amount of the allergen is so small. Injections can be expensive, time consuming, and traumatic for someone who is fearful of them. So, there is an alternate type of immunotherapy that does not require sharp needles: sublingual immunotherapy.

Sublingual immunotherapy uses drops that contain a small amount of the allergen and works in the same exact way that allergy shots work. These liquid drops or pellets are placed under the tongue and are absorbed into the body. The absorption is immediate and bypasses digestion, making it very effective.

This kind of treatment has many benefits over traditional immunotherapy.

1.       It is less painful
Sublingual immunotherapy does not require the use of needles, reducing the sensation of pain from the injection. And for patients who have a fear of needles, it lessens the anxiety and fear that come from using them.

2.       It’s cost effective
Under the careful guidance of your practitioner, sublingual immunotherapy can cost less. Injections require a trained person to administer them, usually in a hospital or medical facility. This requires you to travel. Taking drops under your tongue does not require the same level of travel, nor does it require the presence of a trained professional. In some cases, your practitioner will suggest a personalized or tailored version of the drops. For instance, if you are allergic to your pet’s hair dander, the droplets might contain the hair from your pet instead of a generic version.

3.       Liquid and pellets are available
Sublingual administration of immunotherapy can also be through pellets. One such example of using tablets to treat allergies was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on April, 2016. The study, titled Efficacy of a House Dust Mite Sublingual Allergen Immunotherapy Tablet in Adults With Allergic Asthma, focused on reducing the impacts of an allergic reaction to house dust mite through sublingual immunotherapy. The study authors found that the treatment improves the allergy to house dust mite, further research is needed for safety and efficacy.

The positive benefit to treating allergies is that there are proactive ways to improving our immune systems. Immunotherapy is one of them. The idea of small exposures to allergens can be a little alarming, but with cautious planning and careful monitoring, allergies will improve over time. We have ben using this therapy in our office for 17 years and find it to be a safe, effective way of managing allergies.

Woman sick from mold exposure

Mold Toxicity & Your Health

Mold and its associated illnesses can have minor or devastating impacts on a person’s health. With a compromised immune system, the threats can be even more serious. Combine those risks with mold’s tendency to grow in places outside of human view, and you have a recipe for poor health, including autoimmune dysfunction.

Some molds produce dangerous byproducts called mycotoxins. They are chemicals that specific species can excrete and when in contact with the human body, can produce different symptoms that can mimic other disorders.

Mycotoxins interact with the body in different ways. Symptoms such as brain fog, body pains, depression, fatigue, unexplained rashes, psychiatric disturbances, and problems with breathing are all signs of mold toxicity. It can exacerbate autoimmune conditions and prolong recovery from illness. However, once an individual is properly treated for mold toxicity, symptoms from autoimmune disorders tend to decrease significantly.

One major concern is understanding if symptoms are actually being caused by mold. Most healthcare practitioners are not trained in mold awareness and how mycotoxins affect the body. Assessing your environment for possible exposure to mold is important.

Questions to ask are:
1. Where might mold hide in my house? The presence of water and moisture are indicators that mold is inside your house. Though mold can grow in all kinds of conditions, many molds prefer a consistently damp area to grow. Oftentimes, homeowners will renovate their house to find mold growing between or under the walls. After the walls are knocked down, the direct exposure can contribute to a worsening of symptoms. Do you have a leaky faucet or fixture? Have you ever had a leak I your roof or basement? These are places where the risks are higher for mold growth.

2. What is the weather like today/this week/this month? Again, moisture makes it easier for many species of mold to grow and humidity contributes to the moisture content in the air. A towel dries faster in less humid air, but a slow-drying towel will often carry a smell after a few uses. The reason? Some type of mold has taken advantage of the moisture to grow. While this mold might not produce the most dangerous mycotoxins, the best thing to do would be to wash it or get rid of it. The fall in most parts of the country tends to be worse for mold-allergic sufferers since a leaf mold called Stemphyllium is highly allergenic and is high when leaves start to fall of the trees.

3. Do I happen to live in a moldy part of the world? Other factors from the weather include wet, rainy seasons and hurricanes. Weather-related factors can create neighborhood-wide potential problems. For instance, the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy caused water damage to thousands of homes, forcing them to all be renovated. The water damage from the storm surge, plus the general quality of the water, developed conditions that contributed to mold growth within the structures. Houses had to be gutted and renovated. You can go online to find out if where you live happens to have higher mold counts than other places.

These questions should help you spot potential problem areas that contribute to mold growth. Also, knowing the history of your house helps to identify places where mold could grow or why it might. This is especially important when you are looking to begin renting a new apartment or buying a home. If you have concerns about mold in your home, I highly recommend getting a professional mold inspector to test your home properly so that you can make a good decision on the best to remediate the problem.

There are options to treat mold-related illnesses and to get rid of it in your homes. Awareness of the presence of mold is the first step in the process of treating, and recovering from, mycotoxin toxicity and mold-related illness.