Mold is found in nearly every region of the world, both outdoors and inside homes and buildings. Most molds are entirely harmless to pets and humans, but toxic molds, such as Stachybotrys chartarum, can produce adverse health effects if spores are handled or inhaled. Mild to moderate toxic mold exposure can trigger symptoms such as nasal congestion, itchy eyes, and skin irritation. In excessive quantities, toxic mold can cause fungal infections on the skin or in the lungs. If a person is allergic or especially sensitive to molds, he or she may experience potentially life-threatening airway constriction and respiratory failure.
The dangers of toxic mold exposure largely depend on the type and quantity of mold in an area, as well as a person's age and overall health. Children, the elderly, and adults with immunosuppressive disorders such as HIV are at the highest risk of adverse effects from toxic mold exposure since their immune system defenses are not as well equipped to combat pathogens. People who spend time in barns, wet basements, and poorly-ventilated warehouses are more likely to experience health problems simply because toxic mold thrives in such places.
If a person accidentally touches toxic mold, he or she may develop a skin rash and eye irritation. When spores are inhaled, they can embed themselves in the sinuses, airways, and lungs and cause inflammation. Nasal congestion, coughing, and mild fevers are common with toxic mold exposure. An individual who is exposed to large amounts of mold over a long period of time may experience lasting respiratory problems related to infection. Fungal infections can cause wheezing, a chronic cough, fatigue, chills, and joint aches.
Allergic responses to toxic mold exposure can quickly become serious. An allergic person who inhales toxic mold spores is likely to experience serious breathing difficulties, throat swelling, and a widespread skin rash. Over the course of a few minutes or hours, airway constriction can become severe enough to cause an individual to lose consciousness. A person who shows signs of an allergic reaction should be brought to an emergency room immediately to receive the proper care.
A person who believes that his or her symptoms may be related to toxic mold exposure should seek medical care right away. A doctor can conduct a physical exam and check for the presence of a fungal infection. Treatment for mild symptoms usually involves a course of antifungal medications, but an allergic individual may need to begin receiving regular allergy shots to help prevent future problems. Mold that is identified in a home or building should be reported to a disease control center, a regional authority, or a private mold removal company so it can be tested and properly eradicated.