What is Cladosporium and what are its health effects?
Many people will have heard horror stories about mold causing mysterious illnesses. When a person finds they have mold in their home, it can cause concern because of these worrying stories.
Most kinds of Cladosporium are not dangerous to humans, but sometimes they may lead to allergies, or they may worsen asthma. In rare cases, the mold may lead to infections.
Cladosporium is a type of fungus that includes many common indoor and outdoor molds.
Cladosporium appears in clusters of black, yellow, or green spots. The spots spread quickly when not cleaned away. Cladosporium often forms where moisture is present,
However, it is almost impossible to identify Cladosporium visually.
A person with mold in their home should consult with a mold-testing professional to identify the mold correctly, so that it can be removed safely. It may also be possible to send mold samples to a laboratory for testing.
Cladosporium is not a single species of mold. Rather Cladosporium is a genus of mold that includes more than 40 individual species of fungus.
Some species of Cladosporium can grow indoors while others thrive outdoors. Either way, the genus frequently occurs in humid areas or moist places.
Places where Cladosporium can be found indoors include:
- under sinks
- around faucets
- on carpets
- in curtains
- on upholstered furniture
- near heating and cooling appliances
Outside, Cladosporium can be found on:
- decaying trees
- dead plants
- tree trunks
Most species of Cladosporium do not cause disease in humans. However, long-term exposure to a large amount of any mold, including Cladosporium, can cause adverse health effects, including allergies and asthma symptoms.
Other ailments caused by Cladosporium can include the following:
- eye infections
- ear infections
- skin problems
- sinus infections
The most common health issues from Cladosporium exposure are new or worsening allergies or asthma.
Cladosporium exposure affects people differently. Some people experience no effects from exposure at all. Others who develop an allergy to Cladosporium may have any combination of the following symptoms:
- dry skin
- itchy throat and eyes
- watery eyes
- stuffy or a runny nose
- postnasal drip
In some cases, people with untreated mold allergies and prolonged exposure to molds develop allergic fungal sinusitis.
Sinusitis of this kind results from long-term exposure to an allergen, such as Cladosporium, that gets finely dispersed into the air. The allergen causes fungal debris to grow in a person's sinus cavities.
In these cases, a person with allergic fungal sinusitis caused by Cladosporium may have the following symptoms:
- long-term nasal congestion
- postnasal drip
- recurring sinus headaches
In other cases, people with Cladosporium allergies may experience asthma symptoms triggered by the exposure to the mold. In these cases, a person may have the following asthma symptoms, in addition to their allergy symptoms:
- tightness in the chest
- shortness of breath
Exposure to Cladosporium can sometimes trigger severe asthma attacks, the symptoms of which include:
- severe shortness of breath
- difficulty breathing
- chest tightness and pain
- symptoms that do not respond to a fast-acting inhaler
Anyone experiencing a severe asthma attack should seek emergency medical attention.
Using a nasal decongestant may help to relieve the symptoms of a Cladosporium allergy.
There are several ways of treating Cladosporium-induced allergies, including the following:
- limiting Cladosporium exposure by removal and prevention
- over-the-counter allergy medication
- prescription allergy medication
- nasal rinses
There are many medications that a doctor can recommend or prescribe to a person with a Cladosporium allergy. These medications may include a combination of the following:
- prescription or over-the-counter nasal sprays
- oral or nasal decongestants
People with allergic fungal sinusitis may need surgery to remove the mold particles and blockages from their sinus cavities.
People with asthma can be prescribed rescue inhalers or inhaled steroids to manage and reduce their asthma symptoms.
Bleach or a vinegar solution can be used to remove small areas of mold.
If Cladosporium is growing inside a person's home, it can be removed to prevent further problems. A small area of mold can be treated with a vinegar solution or bleach.
A person with large areas of Cladosporium inside their home should consult with a mold removal professional. Many home insurance companies will cover a portion or all of the cost of mold removal.
If someone chooses to remove a large area of mold for themselves, they should remember that mold removal requires a lot of time and effort.
To remove mold, a person needs to buy bleach and antifungal agents. They should don protective clothing, including a mask and gloves, before entering the affected area to remove any item not affected by the mold first.
Next, the person must seal off the area with plastic sheets and run a negative air machine to prevent mold from spreading.
They should cut away any portion of the wall, carpet, or furniture that is damaged by the mold and dispose of it immediately. Remaining areas should be cleaned thoroughly with bleach or antifungal agents and allowed to dry completely before making any repairs.
Getting rid of mold is much more challenging than preventing it from growing or spreading in the first place. To stop Cladosporium or other mold from forming, a person can:
- run a dehumidifier in basements or other humid rooms
- fix all leaks, as quickly as possible
- install a leak detector
- use an antifungal paint to stop mold growth on walls
- keep all plumbing joints in good condition
- avoid putting carpets in rooms that can become damp, such as bathrooms or basements
- use high-efficiency particulate air filters to trap mold
Once a person has removed Cladosporium from their home, their allergies or asthma symptoms should clear up.
While it may be impossible to avoid mold exposure completely, people with allergies or asthma can manage their symptoms through medicine and taking care to prevent mold from growing in their homes.