The Health Effects of Mold on Children
Although mold awareness has increased considerably in recent years, it still often happens that people who are suffering from mold symptoms don’t realize it, assuming that they have hay fever or a cold. It is quite difficult indeed to define whether a symptom is mold-related or not, as the relation between the harmful microorganisms and many health issues is not yet proven and needs further studies to be confirmed. Nevertheless, if you have mold in your home and a member of your family is feeling sick for no logical or apparent reasons, the noxious fungus is almost certainly the culprit.
Mold produces tiny, lightweight spores which not only initiate new mold growth but also compromise the indoor air quality. When inhaled, these spores cause the immune system to respond by creating allergic reactions as a natural defense against the foreign particles entering the body. This response, however, can result in various health problems and severe allergic symptoms. Different people react to mold exposure in different ways, but children, seniors, and sickness-prone people are usually most vulnerable to the negative effects of mold. The type and severity of the symptoms depend on the types of mold present in the home and the extent of mold exposure, but youngsters whose immune systems have not yet fully developed can be at risk for really serious complications.
But how can mold affect children’s health? The most common symptoms of mold exposure include:
A number of investigations from around the world have clearly demonstrated a close relationship between living in a mold-affected environment and the extent of adverse respiratory symptoms in children. When a young child inhales mold spores, he/she may experience different respiratory problems, similar to the symptoms of seasonal allergies:
- Shortness of breath;
- Runny nose;
- Itchy nose;
- Nasal congestion;
- Sore throat;
- Various other flu-like symptoms.
If your child has asthma, inhaling mold spores may trigger more frequent attacks and exacerbate the chronic lung disease.
Although all types of household molds may result in such troublesome allergy symptoms, the greatest health risks for children come from toxic black molds (Stachybotrys chartarum). They produce mycotoxins that can be particularly harmful to kids and may even result in death. The black mold mycotoxins create irritation and burning sensation in the nasal cavity, mouth, and throat. If they get lodged in the mucus membranes, sinuses, and the lungs, the mycotoxins can cause severe breathing problems and bleeding in the lungs.
It is a proven fact that the effects of mold exposure may have serious consequences for children in the early years of life. Prolonged black mold exposure, in particular, is extremely dangerous as it increases the risk for hemorrhagic pneumonia and consequent death among infants.
Apart from airways symptoms, children who are exposed to toxic black mold may also experience different neurological problems. The trichothecene mycotoxins produced by black mold can kill neurons in the brain and impair its functions, as well as cause nervous disorders, mood swings, and irritability. The most common neurological symptoms of black mold include:
- Confusion and disorientation;
- Shortened attention span;
- Slowed reflexes;
- Memory loss and memory problems;
- Anxiety and depression;
- Trembling or shaking;
Toxic black mold mycotoxins can easily enter the human body through the skin, especially if it comes to the delicate skin of a youngster. So, when a child’s skin comes into contact with black mold spores, irritation, itching, rashes, and other skin problems may appear as a result.
When the black mold mycotoxins come into contact with eye cells, they can cause inflammations of the eyes and create vision problems:
- Itchy eyes;
- Watery eyes;
- Red or bloodshot eyes;
- Eye inflammation and soreness;
- Blurry vision.
Black Mold Health Effects
Apart from the above-described black mold health risks, prolonged exposure to the toxic microorganisms can also cause severe damage to internal organs.
Toxic black mold spores can be easily breathed in, ingested, or absorbed through a person’s skin or eyes. Once the mycotoxins find their way into the bloodstream, they can cause a number of circulatory symptoms and vascular problems, such as irregular heartbeat, heart inflammation, heart damage, low blood pressure, problems with blood clotting, internal or external hemorrhaging, etc.
Other Mold Allergy Symptoms
Other symptoms of mold allergy in children include:
- Chronic fatigue;
- Weakness and general discomfort;
- Muscle pain, chest pain, abdominal pain, joint pain, or other aches;
- Fever, flu-like symptoms, or recurring colds;
- Ear infections and/or impaired hearing;
- Hair loss.
A person’s reaction to mold depends on their sensitivity and overall health condition, the amount and the type of mold present in their surroundings, and the length of exposure. However, the longer a child lives in a mold-affected environment the more sensitive to the harmful microorganisms he/she will become. The resultant allergic reactions will also become more and more severe, causing the black mold symptoms to aggravate considerably. So, to prevent serious health problems and reverse the negative effects of mold, you need to take quick and efficient measures at the first signs of mold growth in your home.
What to Do About Mold in Home
Mold thrives in warm and humid environments, so damp areas in the home, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and basements, are the most likely places to find household mold. Mold removal, however, can be a daunting task – you need to effectively discover and kill all the mold spores in your property, as well as to get rid of the mold toxins (when mold is disturbed, it disintegrates into little particles that may contain pathogenic mycotoxins). So, unless mold covers only a small area that can be easily cleaned or the contaminated materials can be easily replaced, you are recommended to hire professional mold removers who will not only take care of any mold problems you have, but will also guarantee that your home remains mold-free in the future as well.
Once the mold remediation process is efficiently completed, most mold allergy symptoms should gradually decrease. Some of the health effects of mold, however, can be permanent – if a child has been long exposed to toxic black mold their immune system will remain weak for life and they’ll be more sensitive to mold and mycotoxins in the future.