By Michael Rubino
Every year, cases of Lymes disease in children seem to increase. This year in particular, after a winter spend confined indoors, the total number of Lymes diagnoses continues to creep higher and higher. Typically spread by the bite of an infected tick, the bacterial agent, Borrelia burgdorferi, causes an infection that can trigger a range of adverse health reactions. Early symptoms may include chills, fever, and headaches, and then progress to severe fatigue, a stiff neck, joint swelling. Severe symptoms may even affect the heart and central nervous system.
Lymes disease is often diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings, and environment. Testing can be done, but the results aren’t always conclusive. Testing too early can lead to a false negative as the antibodies haven’t had proper time to develop. Any previous experience with Lymes can cause a false positive as the antibodies can persist in the blood for months or even years after contracting the disease. Infection with other diseases can present with a false positive as well.
It’s a difficult, but luckily treatable disease to be diagnosed with. But what if Lymes disease isn’t causing children to become sick this year? Another, often overlooked, environmental factor may be at play: mold exposure.
Molds are a type of fungi that reproduce by creating microscopic spores. Should these spores make their way inside a home and find a moist environment, they will settle in and begin to colonize. Only needing oxygen, a relative temperature between 40-100 degrees Fahrenheit, food, and moisture to survive, these organisms can easily establish and spread inside a home if given the opportunity.
Once one problem begins, they begin creating more spores that continue to spread throughout the air circulating in a home. Many mold species create microscopic toxins, called mycotoxins, that they release into the air as well. Collectively, these foreign particles can wreak havoc on an immune system and cause a range of health conditions, similar to those of Lymes disease.
Keep in mind as well, old homes aren’t the only homes susceptible to mold colonization. More frequently, newly constructed homes are also testing positive for mold issues because of poor techniques used while building. Because mold growth only takes between 24-48 hours, any home can experience colonization if they provide the conditions needed for mold to survive.
Mold’s Impact On Health
When mold and its byproducts are inhaled in a large capacity, the particles cause an allergic reaction. If mycotoxins are present as well, these compounds bind to surface receptors of cells in the body, triggering more adverse health reactions called mycotoxicoses. While predominantly discussed in relation to their presence in foodstuffs, they are also capable of simply existing in a home.
While not all individuals will be sensitive to mold exposure, eventually every immune system will reach its “toxic load” and begin to exhibit symptoms. For those particularly sensitive, such as individuals with preexisting conditions, compromised immune systems, or developing immune systems, the reaction to mold exposure can happen faster and to a greater degree.
Symptoms of mold exposure cover a wide range and are similar to a list of other illnesses and diseases like Lymes. Some individuals experience mildly irritating symptoms like coughing, headaches, runny nose, and fatigue, while others experience digestive issues, chronic fatigue, “brain fog,” respiratory issues, and neurological issues.
Diagnosing mold exposure can be difficult. Oftentimes, doctors don’t start out considering environmental factors as the root cause of an illness. It’s also arduous to test for mold exposure affecting the body. While we can test for antibodies produced to fight the foreign invaders, it can still succumb to the similar pitfalls of Lymes disease testing. Other tests exist to determine mycotoxin presence in a body which can help aid in diagnosing. One of the best determinates, however, is to test the home. A proper mold inspection can provide an accurate picture of the air quality in a home and determine if there’s a mold problem.
Mold and Other Diseases
Unfortunately, mold can also work in conjunction with illnesses and diseases. Prolonged mold exposure works to weaken the immune system. For those with developing immune systems, like children, this can leave the door open for other medical ailments to develop like Lymes disease, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, and Candida. In the book New Paradigms for Lymes Disease Treatment, the doctors say, “Often, mold toxicity causes patients to develop symptoms from Lyme infections and vice versa, and people with weakened immune systems are far more susceptible to sickness from mold.”
While mold exposure may already be causing symptoms, it allows for other issues to arise and further affect the body at the same time. Taken collectively, this can spur an ongoingly negative state of health.
Fixing the Problem
The symptoms of mold exposure will not relent until the source of the problem is taken care of. Remediating a home and removing contamination is the first step to healing. Finding a company that can accurately handle the job can be difficult, but not impossible. This company should uphold three pillars when creating a remediation protocol: remediate the sources properly, identify and address the problems that led to those sources in the first place, and eradicate the contamination that was created by those sources. When they leave a home, they should be confident that anyone living inside will be able to start their journey to healing.
From there, detoxifying the body should be the main priority. Finding a doctor that understands how mold exposure can impact a body and building a detoxification plan around that comprehension is paramount to success. The journey to wellness can be a long one, often taking up to several months before the symptoms begin to significantly subside, but healing is possible.
Staying Safe and Healthy
As a parent, there’s nothing more discouraging than trying to identify the reason a child continues to remain unwell. Society has yet to give significant attention to the effects of environmental factors on wellbeing, which often leaves gaps in treatment plans and diagnoses. Pushing for mold exposure awareness and understanding will help identify air quality issues faster and lead to faster solutions to persistent symptoms. That way, children can focus on a healthy and happy childhood.
Michael Rubino is owner of All American Restoration and author of The Mold Medic. He is an international mold remediation expert with nearly a decade of field experience working with individuals who are immunocompromised to improve the air quality in their homes. Rubino is a council certified Mold Remediator by IICRC and ACAC and a contributing member, sponsor, and speaker for the Indoor Air Quality Association. He works with roughly seventy-five to 100 families each year as they return to their homes after mold exposure.