July 1, 2022
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The Dangerous Long-Term Effects of Mold Exposure in Seniors

Mold exposure can have dangerous long-term effects on seniors, particularly those who are already in poor health. 

It’s important for caregivers to be aware of the signs of mold exposure and know-how to protect the elderly from this hazard. 

This blog post will discuss the dangerous long–term effects of mold exposure and provide tips for preventing it.

Let’s get it started! 

What are molds and why are they dangerous for seniors

mold at home

Molds exist naturally and are a vital part of the environment. They help in speeding up decomposition, especially with organic materials and other debris. 

However, not all molds are helpful. With more than 100,000 species, there are types of molds that can cause health problems. 

More than half of the homes in the US have mold problems. This makes 38% of the population susceptible, especially young children and the elderly. 

The problem with molds comes from their spores. These can be categorized into three types: allergenic, pathogenic, and toxigenic. 

Allergenic molds are usually airborne. 

These molds can also trigger an asthmatic episode if it enters the lungs. 

Pathogenic molds can cause infections in humans despite being in good health. Some can even cause pneumonia or result in life-threatening diseases. 

On the other hand, toxigenic molds can cause a toxic response in humans and animals. 

These mold types produce chemical metabolic byproducts called mycotoxins. These chemicals travel with the spores through the air. And if inhaled, it can cause serious ailments and diseases in the home. 

What’s the difference between mold and mildew?

Mold and mildew are often interchanged. And while both are fungi, there’s a huge difference between them. 

Mildew is a surface fungus that is non-invasive. It can also be removed and treated with cleaners and bleach. 

These are also commonly found in damp areas like kitchens and bathrooms. 

However, having a mold infestation in your home may require professional help.

mold types

Molds may appear black, green, and sometimes red. Mildew can be grayish, white, or light brown. 

But the most dangerous types of mold are black. People with weakened immune systems like young children and the elderly are more susceptible to the effects of black mold. 

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, black mold can cause certain types of health problems. 

Some experience allergies and irritation, congestion, watery eyes, rashes, sore throat, and respiratory issues. 

Rare cases of severe reactions can include tiredness, progressive weight loss, fatigue, and shortness of breath. 

Why the elderly are vulnerable to mold 

Why are molds such an inconvenience for the elderly? And why do you need to check for them in your elder’s homes consistently?

For starters, you need to understand how the body changes as we grow older. 

As you know, the lungs work to pull in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide from the body. 

But for the elderly, a lot of changes happen with the lung tissue. All of the muscles, sacs and other parts of the respiratory system weaken. 

mold effects on elderly

The air sacs in the lungs lose shape over time. And this makes it difficult for seniors to breathe and maximize oxygen from the air. 

The muscles and bones that support the lungs also weaken. The ribcage doesn’t expand and retract like it used to, and the diaphragm also finds it difficult to support the breath. 

The nervous system is also affected by these changes further reducing the lung function. 

Because of this, it would be harder for the elderly to get rid of dust, spores, and other particles. This can collect in the airways and become more concentrated as time passes. 

Long-term effects of mold exposure in seniors 

The severity of the effects of mold may depend on the type of mold and its concentration levels. 

Unfortunately, the symptoms the elderly experience can easily be overlooked. For most, it can be addressed as a simple allergy to dust. 

But if not given proper attention, it can lead to dangerous respiratory infections, or worse, death. 

asthma and allergies from mold

Research from Science Direct showed a correlation between depression and black mold. Seniors living or working in moldy buildings can show signs related to depression, like anxiety, confusion, mood swings, vertigo, and even decreased memory and word recollection. 

Fatigue and headaches are also an effect of long-term exposure to mold. 

Because it’s difficult to breathe, it’s harder for the body to fight off illnesses. 

Black mold specifically has a negative effect on short-term memory. And in some cases, memory loss from mold can also be misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s.

There’s also the mold’s impact on your property. 

Mold can cause broken window frames, damage to the walls and floorboards, and more. 

More than money, it can become a safety risk for the elderly aging in place. 

Final thoughts 

Mold is a serious issue in homes, and it can cause health problems for everyone in the household, especially elders and young children. 

There are different types of mold that can cause a variety of health issues, from allergies to respiratory tract infections. The best way to deal with mold is to address and prevent it. 

If you are unsure if there may be unseen mold, a home inspection by a certified aging in place specialist home inspector may be a good idea.

If you know your dealing with a mold infestation in your home, read our next blog post on how to fix the problem.

That's all for today.

Take care, keep mom safe and have a great day!


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