Mold in a DishWhen most of us hear the word mold, we automatically picture a slice of bread or a wedge of cheese with those familiar green or black spots on it. Generally, it is rather harmless and we simply throw the affected food in the trash, while silently vowing to make smarter choices about our storage habits so as not to waste money like this again in the future.

There is, however, a different kind of mold  that gets in the air, can infest your home, and potentially make you very sick if you consistently breathe in too much of it. This can be quite serious and you will need to know when you should get mold checked by a doctor.

What exactly is mold?

During grade-school science class, we learned that all living things share three characteristics, including growth and the ability to reproduce. Basically, mold is a living fungus that grows and thrives in many environments, including in dirt and on rotting materials. Other types of fungus include certain mushrooms and yeast. They are able to breed by producing microscopic-sized spores.

In nature, mold is a common, beneficial part of the life cycle because it helps in the decomposition of vegetation and other types of flora. However, inside your house, the spores can travel and then reproduce on any wet area. When this happens, it can negatively affect your lungs and skin if inhaled or touched. You should know that mold can grow on any natural structure like paper and fibers.

You are most likely to have mold buildup in bathrooms and kitchens, because of the moisture there that cannot really be avoided. It can also be found behind walls as a result of a leak or near windows that are not properly sealed.

How can you tell if your symptoms are caused by mold?

With so many forms of germs and diseases, it can be difficult to determine cause and effect in any illness. For example, when you have a headache, it could be the result of a stressful day, excessive noise, sinus pressure, or yesterday’s minor bump against the file cabinet.

In the same way, the symptoms of mold exposure  can easily mimic reactions from other sources. People who suffer from mold contact typically experience allergic episodes such as sneezing, coughing, itching, and nasal issues. More serious problems might involve nose bleeds and fever. Particularly advanced cases can include trouble breathing.

Often, mold buildup occurs from extreme moisture. Therefore, if your home, business, or school has been impacted by leaks, floods, or other types of water damage, it should be checked for mold. Although there are no limits or laws regarding how much mold is too much, it is important to deal with any problems areas that can promote mold growth and get rid of it when it does appear, to prevent potential health issues.

Why should mold be checked by a doctor?

Since mold is typically all around us, we breathe in small quantities all the time without any problems. Yet, for anyone who has other lung problems, such as a respiratory infection, mold can be especially dangerous.

Your physician can conduct tests to find out if you are allergic to mold and whether you have been affected. They look for evidence of certain antibodies that provide proof. It could require a blood test or just a quick skin sample.

Mold spores enter the nose, throat, and lungs and cause a reaction. Too much mold in these areas can generate a rather mild consequence like congestion to major complications such as an asthma attack. There are even some forms of mold that can be lethal if ignored or untreated. Everyone is different, so your reaction to mold may vary from someone else’s.

If you have any of these minor reactions and they become excessive or life-changing, you should make an appointment with your physician. Also, if you already have a lung condition, you should see your doctor or allergist regularly to monitor any symptoms or changes in your illness.

You can also work with your employer, school, or home inspector to have the mold removed as soon as possible. Those who have jobs that require them to be constantly around farms, construction sites, or any place where you can encounter wet materials, may be at increased risk for a negative response to mold.

In most cases, after the mold is gone, your ailments will also vanish. However, some effects of mold contact can be long-lasting. This possibility could increase if you have prolonged dealings with mold.

Many people spend a majority of their time indoors, even more so during the winter or in inclement weather. Any time you suspect severe mold exposure, you may want to talk with a doctor.