What is mould illness?
Mould is a type of fungal organism that grows in damp environments. Some moulds have been pivotal for our development as humans such as Penicillium notatum which was used to make the life saving antibiotic penicillin in the 1920s. However, with all of the heavy rain we have seen on the East Coast of Australia over the last few months many people have seen mould pop up in their homes.
Most homes and environments will have a certain amount of mould, it is a normal part of our environment. The problem with damp homes is that mould flourishes in a combination of bacteria and other microbes to produce volatile compounds known as mycotoxins. These mycotoxins can lead to all kinds of health issues and what we now call “Mould Illness”.
Mould becomes a health issue when the amount growing starts to exceed your individual threshold, and unfortunately we all have different thresholds that we can withstand. Due to genetics, gut health and general wellbeing certain individuals are much more sensitive than others. This means that in certain mouldy households some members of the same family can be completely fine while others are experiencing numerous health symptoms.
Having mould in the home is not a cosmetic or cleanliness issue, any water damage or exposure can lead to mould growing which often occurs in places we cannot see such as in cupboards, inside the walls, air vents, around the windows and doors, or on our soft furnishings like curtains and rugs. It doesn’t matter if you clean the mould off with soap or other solutions, if the water damage continues to re-occur or if it has gotten into the structures, it will continue to grow. As a rule of thumb, water damage needs to be remediated within 48 hours to avoid mould.
It is also important to take into account the other places you spend a lot of your time such as your workplace, gym and car. If you see signs of water damage or smell musty, stale, rotten, or pungent smells when you enter these areas, there may be mould growing.
What are the symptoms of mould illness?
In general, most people will experience allergy-like symptoms such as sneezing, congestion, sore throat, or runny nose. If you have been experiencing sinus issues or constant hayfever, or if you have noticed these symptoms pop up since moving into a new house or starting a new job, mould could be the culprit.
A small portion of the population will get a whole body inflammatory response. Often the symptoms for these people can be unusual, intense and constantly evolving. Some of these symptoms include:
Memory issues/brain fog
Ice pick type pain in the body
Anxiety and panic attacks
Metallic taste in the mouth
Changes to digestion
Yeast over-growth symptoms (thrush, fungal nails, etc.)
Symptoms resolve when on holidays but come back when home
When the usual treatments for these symptoms aren’t working, they keep coming back or new symptoms are constantly popping up, this can be a sign of mould illness.
How do you know if you have mould illness?
If you suspect you have a mould problem in your house or if you have experienced a significant water event such as flood water entering your home you need to contact a building biologist to do an assessment of your home. They will be looking for mould counts and will refer you to a mould remediation specialist if it can be rectified. Unfortunately, for many people who have been affected by floods, their homes will be completely un-liveable and they will need to relocate or rebuild. This can be deeply traumatic and difficult, we recommend seeking support from the government and your insurance companies during this process as well as trauma support services.
If you aren’t entirely sure but have a lot of the symptoms above there are a number of tests that can be done to help identify certain markers of mould illness. Unfortunately there isn’t just one test that confirms mould illness, however, looking at mycotoxins levels and organic acids in the urine, inflammatory markers such as CRP in the blood, and detoxification markers such as bilirubin can point us in the right direction. Having said that, the best way to assess if you have mould illness is by doing a thorough case history of your environment and symptoms.
What can be done about it?
Treating mould illness can be quite tricky and the best form of treatment is prevention. To avoid mould growing in your house it is important to:
Always use the fan in your bathroom when showering and leave it on for 15 minutes afterward or until all steam has gone.
Always cook with the range hood fan on and leave it on until all steam from cooking has gone.
Keep windows open during the middle of the day to allow for fresh air flow (besides rainy days).
Use dehumidifiers if you notice water on the inside of your windows or your house feels humid or damp.
Try to limit carpets, rugs and fabric curtains in the household.
If there is a water event such as overflowing baths or leaks, use a dehumidifier and contact a mould remediator to rectify the problem within 48 hours.
Vacuum and dust the house regularly as mould feeds off dust particles. Ensure you are getting behind furniture and hard to reach places.
While removing yourself from the source will not be necessary for everyone, if you are part of the small percentage of the population who is suffering from mould illness, this is the most essential part of your treatment. You will not get better if you are continually exposed to the mould.
Other things to help treat mould illness include:
Supporting detoxification and elimination pathways by promoting regular bowel movements and sweating.
Improving sleep quality and reducing stress/anxiety levels.
Binders such as charcoal, chlorella and diatomaceous earth that can “stick” or bind to the mycotoxins and avoid them going back into circulation through the body.
Anti-inflammatory compounds such as curcumin, green tea, quercetin, boswellia, and resveratrol.
Anti-fungal herbs such as pau d’arco, goldenseal, and reishi.
Following a low histamine diet to support and prevent allergy-type symptoms and inflammation in the body.
For further support to identify if you are experiencing mould illness or mould induced sinus/respiratory symptoms, please get in touch and we can discuss the options possible for you.