Exposure to household mold can affect the immune system and compromised immunity also makes you more susceptible to mold-related health problems. That’s why infants are at higher risk for mold-related illness – their immune systems aren’t fully functioning yet. That’s also why we recommend people with immune-related disorders not attempt to clean up household mold themselves – their immune systems may not be strong enough to deal with the increased exposure to mold spores during the cleanup process.
If we’re going to talk about immunity, we need to understand what it is and how it’s supposed to work. Only then can we begin to understand how mold can affect immunity.
This is the body system designed to protect the body against harmful microorganisms, like bacteria, viruses, fungi (including mold), and other potentially harmful substances. It’s made up of cells, tissues and organs that all work together toward this purpose. They try to keep harmful microorganisms out of the body and they detect and attempt to destroy any that do manage to enter the body.
Important components of the immune system include:
Leukocytes – Commonly known as white blood cells, these important cells are stored in several parts of the body, including the spleen, the bone marrow, and the lymph nodes. White blood cells circulate throughout the body, but they also collect in areas where there is infection. For instance, if a cut gets infected, white blood cells collect in the area, causing the cut to appear inflamed and creating pus.
Lymph nodes – Located throughout the body, including in the abdomen, armpits, neck and groin, the lymph nodes help break down pathogens and filter toxins to be removed from the body. They also contain lots of white blood cell to help fight infection. When you get sick, extra white blood cells collect in the lymph nodes to fight the illness, which can cause your lymph nodes to feel swollen. Here is more about the role of lymph nodes and the lymphatic system in immunity.
Bone marrow – This is the spongy tissue inside your bones. Blood cells, including leukocytes, are produced here. If the bone marrow isn’t functioning properly and produces abnormal white blood cells, those cells may be unable to fight infection.
Spleen – Located in the abdomen, this organ is about the size of your fist. While most white blood cells (leukocytes) are made in the bone marrow, there are some other white blood cells called lymphocytes that are made in the spleen and in the lymph nodes. The spleen also helps filter waste from the blood. It is possible to live without your spleen and sometimes the spleen becomes damaged and must be removed. However, without your spleen, you would find it harder to fight off infection.
Mold spores are some of the harmful microorganisms the system is designed to defend against. When mold enters the body, by being inhaled or through a cut or in some other way, the system kicks into gear to protect the body from the threat. You might run a fever and you might feel tired while your body tries to fight off an infection.
If you’re able to successfully fight off the infection, everything will then return to normal. If you continue to be exposed to mold every day in your home, though, your body probably won’t be able to fight off the infection and your condition may get worse over time. Your condition may worsen even if you get medical care.
As you read previously, there are many components of the immune system. If something goes wrong with any of those cells, tissues or organs, the system doesn’t function normally. A number of medical conditions can affect immunity, including HIV, AIDS, cancer, splenectomy (removal of the spleen), and autoimmune disorders. Some medications, including chemotherapy, can also decrease immune functioning.
If you have compromised immunity, you’ll be much more susceptible to mold-related illness. You’ll also find it much more difficult to fight off infection and it may take you much longer than other people to recover.
If you have a condition that affects your immunity, be sure to consult your doctor right away if you’ve discovered mold in your home. Even if you aren’t currently experiencing symptoms of mold-related illness, it’s best to consult with your doctor to find out if you need to take any special precautions to prevent becoming ill from the mold. Of course, you’ll also want to have the mold removed from your home as soon as possible, in order to prevent becoming ill.
See your doctor. He or she will do a thorough exam and take a detailed history. He or she may also order some blood tests to check for signs of infection and to see how your immune system is functioning. Make sure you inform your doctor about your exposure to mold.
Your doctor will prescribe treatment for any mold-related health problems you are experiencing. Your doctor will most likely also recommend avoiding further exposure to mold. This means having the mold removed from your home as soon as possible. Ask your doctor if it’s safe to remain in your home while arranging for the mold removal. In cases of severe mold-related illness or immune deficiency problems, doctors sometimes recommend staying elsewhere to prevent any further exposure to mold.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends consulting your physician before beginning the mold removal process if you have health issues, to make sure it’s safe for you to clean up mold yourself or to be present during the cleanup process. If you think you may need to hire a professional, you can schedule a free in-home consultation with an experienced mold removal professional to discuss your needs. Just follow this link to find qualified professionals offering free consultations in your area.