The presence of mold doesn’t mean your home is dirty or that you don’t keep a clean house. Mold can grow almost anywhere, especially in places you can’t see—bathtubs, toilets, basements, and under sinks are common places for mold to grow. Black mold, in particular is associated with several health risks, so if you find it, you should clean and remove it right away. There are several species of black mold, but the most common is stachybotrys chartarum, which will have either a black or dark green appearance. This type of mold grows in dark, moist climates as long as there is a food source for it to feed on—and that can be almost anything, even drywall.
The dangers of black mold in the house aren’t necessarily life-threatening, but they will affect your health. Mycotoxicosis, also known as mold poisoning, can affect the upper respiratory system. The symptoms of mold poisoning are similar to those of a cold or the flu: the victim may experience red eyes, itchy skin, nose stuffiness, wheezing, and coughing. In most cases, the symptoms are simply a nuisance, making day-to-day life a struggle with constant sneezing and nose-blowing. In extreme cases, however, people with existing asthma or allergies can have more severe symptoms that lead to more severe ailments. They may experience headaches, exhaustion, frequent coughing, fever, chest colds, and difficulty breathing. If left untreated for an extended period of time, the symptoms of black mold can be fatal to those affected.
Symptoms alone aren’t enough to diagnose mold poisoning. If you’re showing any of the symptoms and think you may have mold poisoning, consult your doctor. They’ll administer blood tests and/or allergy tests to find out what ailment you have. Doctors test for mold allergies with a skin prick test, which involves touching several pins coated in different allergens to your skin. If your skin reacts to the allergen, you’re allergic to it. The skin prick test is a painless procedure that takes minutes to do. If your doctor determines you’re allergic to mold, test the mold levels in your house right away. If levels are high, there’s a good chance that mold is what’s making you sick.
You can treat mold allergies and poisoning with over-the-counter medications. Nasal spray and eye drops will help with minor irritation. If the illness has progressed, your doctor can prescribe a series of allergy shots. Over time, your body will build up an immunity to the mold allergy. Of course, the best thing you can do is to clean and remove the mold from your house entirely.