Mold toxicity is a common and dangerous health risk of modern living. Homes that have been flooded in the past or exist in high-humidity regions are at extreme risk of growing mold in hidden places and releasing spores all over the house. Unfortunately, the spores of almost all mold varieties are toxic to humans and to pets.
Mold syndrome is almost never what the doctor diagnoses the first three to ten times you go in feeling poorly or with a sick family member. The symptoms of mold toxicity are so varied that in most cases, poisoned individuals try to treat three or four different irrelevant conditions that their mold symptoms -look like-. In some cases, this is extremely dangerous.
Today, we're here to highlight the common misdiagnoses that mold toxicity is frequently mistaken for, both for minor and life-threateningly severe cases of toxic mold syndrome.
Symptoms of Mold Toxicity
One of the terrifying things about mold is how many symptoms can apply. Signs of mold toxicity start with symptoms that look like normal allergies, but can progress into chronic fatigue, dangerous flu-like symptoms, and even brain damage as mold begins to grow on the moist tissue of the brain itself. Here's a quick list of many of mold toxicity symptoms that contribute to misdiagnosis:
- Hives and Rashes
- Runny or Stuffy Nose
- Burning or Watering Eyes
- Coughing and Sinus Drainage
- Chronic Fatigue
- Body Temperature Deregulation
- Sudden Weight Gain
- Abdominal Pain and Indigestion
- Heavy Menstrual Bleeding
- Cognition Problems - Lowered Mental Capacity
- Mood Swings
- Appetite Swings
- Extreme Thirst
Most Common Misdiagnoses
Most people actually notice the signs of mold toxicity early, but they and their doctors mistake these signs for normal unimportant ailments that can be treated with over-the-counter medicine and a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, no matter how well you eat or how many antihistamines you take, mold continues to become more and more toxic inside your home and inside your body. Here are the most common misdiagnoses of toxic mold syndrome:
The vast majority of early mold toxicity signs are mistaken for allergies. In fact, the diagnosis isn't always incorrect. Anyone having an allergic reaction inside an apparently clean home may well be reacting to mold. Allergies in response to mold spores are normal, mold spores are toxic to your body and allergies are your body trying to reject the spores. You sneeze and cough to eject the spores from your sinuses and throat. You itch because your skin wants the spores scraped off the surface. You may even get allergy-sick because there are spores in your digestive system.
But low-scale toxic mold reactions also tend to look like allergies. Rashes, hives, burning eyes and running or stuffy sinuses are all normal reactions to exposure to toxic mold. And doctors who treat the symptoms often send someone feeling mold-poisoned home with an antihistamine.
Mold toxicity also tends to affect breathing, especially in more sensitive members of your household. In a moldy home, you breathe in mold spores all day long, and therefore your air passageways and lungs are constantly exposed to more spores. The toxicity can then manifest as coughing, wheezing, trouble breathing, and other symptoms that look like adult or childhood asthma.
People suffering from mold toxicity are often misdiagnosed with asthma, especially children as doctors are ready to 'catch' childhood asthma early. While the inhaler may help open your air passageways, it will not make the mold stop damaging your lungs until the mold is gone from your house.
Mold toxic reactions also include hives and rashes. Skin-rash signs of mold sickness are often misdiagnosed with diaper rash, heat rash, or possibly allergic hives instead. Patients with rashes are likely to be waved off with a little hydrocortisone cream and instructions not to scratch at what may be a sign that mold is trying to eat away at your skin.
The energy depletion from mold sickness can also make people feel and act sluggish and depressed. You may feel weighed down, like you can't get enough oxygen or like every day is harder than the day before. Or someone in your household might respond this way. This is often diagnosed as depression, either chronic or temporary. A mold-infested house exposes family members to mold spores, which can cause fatigue, mood swings (even anger), and depression. But in this case, depression is a symptom, not the final diagnosis.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
If you are exhausted all the time but not diagnosed with depression, the misdiagnosis might be chronic fatigue syndrome instead. This is a generic diagnosis that supposes our body is sleeping and using energy poorly. It is dangerous to misdiagnose someone with mold-toxicity as chronically fatigued because that fatigue is the mold stealing your physical energy and making you sick.
Stress can cause distraction, fatigue, and even certain kinds of rashes. Therefore, some doctors misdiagnose mold toxicity with signs of acute stress based on work, home, or emotional relationships instead of mold in the walls. In fact, stress is one of the more common diagnoses for mold victims who display a wider variety of low-to-medium risk symptoms. It's also a blow-off diagnosis that requires no tests and is hard to confirm.
Most Dangerous Misdiagnoses
Then there are the misdiagnoses that are really unpleasant and should be frightening to receive. These reveal just how dangerous the sickness of mold toxicity can be because of the severity of conditions that mold toxicity can be mistaken for.
Irritable Bowel Syndrom (IBS)
Mold in your digestive system can make you very very sick. Some people experience constant discomfort and digestive troubles as a result of toxic mold exposure. So much to the point that mold sickness has been commonly misdiagnosed as IBS, an intestinal disorder that causes constant pain, gas, and alternating diarrhea and constipation. Mold can mess up your digestion that badly, which also causes it to masquerade as IBS and a number of other digestive ailments.
Yes, mold toxicity has been mistaken for MS. Multiple Sclerosis is what happens when your immune system eats your myelin sheaths, which protect your nerves from damage and over-exposure. In other words, your nerves become more painfully raw and unusable over time. The fact that mold toxicity can be mistaken for MS is pretty scary on its own. The fact that it can cause brain and nerve damage in ways similar to MS should not be underestimated, and an unusual or tentative diagnosis of MS should be re-checked for mold toxicity just in case.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD)
Mold can even affect the functioning of your brain. Sometimes permanently, especially for very small children and pets. Mold spores can reach and begin growing on your brain which sounds like a horror movie plot but, unfortunately, is common in families who have been living in a mold-infested house for a long time. This damage to the brain through spores in the sinuses or on the brain can cause attention and focus problems that can appear to be ADHD in adults and children. And a misdiagnosis of ADHD means the mold sickness has gotten dangerously bad.
In fact, mold sickness can even masquerade as a learning disability in children who are exposed. If your child is having trouble at school or is displaying signs of cognitive function problems at home, then mold toxicity could, unfortunately, be the answer. Children who are misdiagnosed with learning disabilities sometimes 'recover' from that disability after moving away from a moldy home, but sometimes the damage is long-term because of the effect on their developing brains.
Misdiagnosis is one of the things that makes mold toxicity so incredibly dangerous. Instead of catching symptoms early and moving or eradicating the mold, a misdiagnosis causes families to treat the symptoms instead of the source and stay longer in a harmfully moldy environment. If your family is displaying illness symptoms that can't be stopped or pinned to a single diagnosis, test for mold. It may be your best chance for recovery before toxicity takes a permanent toll on your health. For more information or a consultation on your unique circumstances, contact us today.