Just as a house is a nice cozy home for a family, the warm, moist interiors of its walls are a nice cozy home for mold. Unfortunately, the mold can be bad for the family’s health. The plants, fungi, and other tiny organisms collectively known as mold include allergens that can be uncomfortable or even harmful in the close quarters of a home or office. Though mold normally live outside on organic matter such as dead trees and fallen leaves, spores can get blown in through open doorways and windows, or brought in by air intakes. Once in the home, they attach themselves to damp surfaces and start to grow, develop, and reproduce.
This isn’t always bad. After all, it was a mold, Aspergillus penicillium, that changed modern medicine, spurring the invention of antibiotics, which made untreatable and often fatal diseases manageable for the first time in history. However, even A. penicillium can cause quite severe allergic reactions in some people. Other types of mold are even less beneficial. One of the most common, Trichoderma longibrachium, is also one of the most potentially dangerous. It produces a toxic substance called trilongins. When absorbed by the body, this prevents cells from getting the potassium and sodium they need. Potassium and sodium are important for circulation and respiration, when they are rendered inert, it can disrupt the heart and the lungs.
There is no real cure for symptoms caused by mold exposure. As long as the person is exposed to mold—such as at home, or at the office—the symptoms will come back even if treatment is provided. The only solution is to remove either the patient or the mold from the environment. Getting fresh air in will help dry out the damp areas molds look for. In humid weather, a air conditioner or a dehumidifier will keep things dry. Anti-mold cleaners will help in places like the bathroom.
However, researchers are looking for a way mold allergy can be treated, for example when removal is not possible or practical. One surprising finding was that vitamin D can actually help prevent mold allergies. Patients in that study with allergies had low vitamin D levels, and when they were administered the vitamin, their allergic reaction lessened and the allergy itself—the tendency to have that reaction—was diminished.