SPRINGFIELD – In recent weeks, mold has forced the closure of South Hadley High School and the temporary closure of the Roderick L. Ireland courthouse, as well as two schools in Northampton, as mitigation efforts were underway to clean it and remove it.
Exposure to molds can lead to symptoms such as a stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes, or skin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Serious reactions can occur in workers exposed to large amounts of mold in the workplace.
Individuals considered most at risk for severe allergic reactions to the tiny airborne spores that exist in thousands of mold species include those with a history of familial allergies and who are exposed over time, not only in classrooms or workspaces, but at home.
Dr Jackie Garrett, allergist and immunologist certified by the Board of Trinity Health Of New England Medical Group, said one of the first steps in assessing a person for a possible mold allergy is their history environmental.
“I ask them where they live, how old is the house they live in, do they have carpet, is the basement wet, do they have a ventilation system in place, do they have a ventilation system? ‘central air with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air filter) to remove these small particles,’ said Garrett. “I also ask them if they use a dehumidifier, is their bathroom ventilated, that is to say after taking their shower, do they turn on this fan to dry the air and is there- he leaked before their symptoms appeared? “
Garrett, who treats patients with allergies, asthma, and primary immunodeficiency diseases, said the reason for these questions is that molds like damp and humid environments.
âGood ventilation is essential for maintaining humidity inside a home or building just to help reduce the environment that will make it pleasant and conducive to mold growth,â Garrett said. “Think about damp, dark and damp places.”
She said she told the patient that “especially during the cold months when you are running your heaters you want to make sure the humidity is below 50% in your home.”
âMold and dust mites will thrive with high humidity,â Garrett said. âMoisture is a friend of mold growth. Having good ventilation inside a house, inside a building is really good at reducing the number of molds and not making it a favorable environment for growth.
She said that âfor the build-up of mold indoors it is very important to make sure that the space is cleaned properly.
âWhen my patients come in and I say I live in a building and I see mold on the ceiling, I say you need to call the landlord immediately to come in and do some cleaning and if that’s really involved, you have to do it. mold removal to make sure it’s all done, âGarrett said. âThis ensures that you are not constantly exposed to mold on a daily basis. “
Outdoor mold exposure can be seasonal, while indoor types can present ongoing challenges, she said.
âWe see outdoor mold from April through November, and we’ve had a wet spring and summer and it looks like fall too,â Garrett said. âThe number of mold outdoors is definitely on the rise because of this. Historically, when the leaves fall, you have higher exposure. People have always had problems with indoor mold. Basements are damp or people are hoarding old books and newspapers or keeping organic plants. I have seen mold allergy issues throughout my career, but not specific to these exposures.
People who work in certain occupations, such as agriculture and forestry, that can expose them to mold may be at risk for allergies, especially if they themselves have a history of family allergies or allergies. environmental issues, she said. Symptoms can be mild to severe.
âYou can have typical allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nose), sneezing, congestion, runny nose, stuffy eye symptoms, itching and a runny nose,â Garrett said. “Some people with eczema or atopic dermatitis will get rashes if they come in contact with mold.”
She said people with asthma “can experience significant symptoms” from exposure to mold.
âA child with asthma, for example, who doesn’t wear gloves or a mask to pick up leaves may have an eczema flare or an asthma flare,â Garrett said. âMore involved may be someone who has had problems with rhinosinusitis, which is inflammation of the sinus tract. They may get allergic fungal sinusitis which is basically a sinus infection, but fungal.
She added: “You may also have allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis in people who have had moderate to severe asthma and who might not be well controlled and who are constantly exposed to mold that might be in a classroom. or a domestic environment. “
âThere is also a very rare condition that you can find in people with asthma called hypersensitivity pneumonitis,â Garrett said. “It’s an inflammatory response that takes place in the lungs.”
She said more severe cases of mold infections can also be found “in susceptible people.”
âPeople who are immunocompromised or on immunosuppressive drugs,â Garrett said. “You have more invasive mold infections with people with HIV-AIDS or someone who has cancer and is taking immunosuppressive drugs.”
However, she said that “the majority of people if they have mold issues they are just on the allergy spectrum.”
âThey are going to have nasal and eye symptoms just as if they were exposed to other allergens like pollen,â Garrett said.
She said skin tests can be done to determine if a person has a mold allergy and that both immediate and long-term treatment is needed.
The severity of symptoms in a person who may be susceptible can be influenced by the length of exposure, Garrett said.
âSay we have bad precipitation and you have a leak in your basement,â she said. âYou don’t know because your basement isn’t finished and you don’t really go there and so mold sets in. You have been an allergic person in a house with mold for a month. You may start to have bigger symptoms compared to someone like an asthmatic who just cleans the leaves and has this one-time exposure.
She added, âMore chronic exposure can set you up for symptoms of larger symptoms, so you might end up with not only runny eyes and an itchy nose, but if you have basic breathing issues like with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), you might end up having more persistent symptoms.