Respiratory & Sinus Infections Due to Mold Exposure

Mold is found throughout our natural environment, sprouting up quickly to assist in the degradation and disposal of organic materials.

Identifying Mold

A moldy ceiling.A moldy ceiling.
But though this bacterium is common in nature, it is toxic in the home. Mold thrives in moist environments, particularly warm and dark spots with plenty of organic materials, such as drywall and wood to feast on, which can make the home particularly vulnerable to contaminations. Mold exposure can be dangerous, with the potential to cause serious allergy and asthma symptoms, such as respiratory problems and sinus infections.

Mold can be visible on exterior surfaces in the home, such as walls, floors or ceilings, as black, reddish, yellow or green streaks or spots. Mold is often fuzzy and slimy. Mold can also be detected by a distinct odor--a musty or stuffy smell. However, moisture can also cause a room to smell musty and stuffy, so this odor does not necessarily indicate mold; however, it does indicate the potential for mold and should be treated immediately.

Symptoms of Mold Exposure

Mold exposure can cause respiratory problems, such as difficulty breathing, coughing or sneezing. It can also cause sinus congestion, chest pain and stuffiness, and other allergy-like symptoms, such as runny nose, sore throat, headaches and itchy eyes. Mold exposure can cause these symptoms in young children, the elderly, or anyone with allergies or an impaired immune system.

Treating Mold Symptoms

Symptoms of mold exposure should be treated like any sign of asthma or allergies. The cause of the reaction should be remediated and removed, and the individual should be treated with antihistamine medication or herbal remedies, such as eucalyptus or chamomile-infused tea, to flush out the allergens.

Remediating Mold Contaminations

Mold is extremely difficult to remove if it has contaminated a porous surface. An extensive contamination on wood, drywall or carpet is best entirely removed, as the mold may have penetrated deep into the fibers. If mold has contaminated a non-porous surface such as glass, heavy plastic or exterior walls, a hefty dose of bleach or chemical mold killer may do the trick. Whenever working with mold, be sure to protect yourself with plastic gloves and a respiratory mask.

Preventing Mold

The best cure for mold is sunshine and fresh air, so be sure to keep your home well-ventilated, clean and dry to prevent mold contaminations. Also, always repair moisture leakages immediately and dry any surface that has become damp. Use humidifiers and fans to help keep your household dry.

About the Author

Robyn Murray is a journalist based in Omaha, Neb. She has reported for national and international media including National Public Radio, Public Radio International and Business Day in Johannesburg. Murray holds a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.