Mold Sick? Now What?

Mold sickness, otherwise known as a CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome), can be an overwhelming diagnosis. Someone who is newly diagnosed and aware that mold is causing their symptoms often comes to us not knowing where to begin. Our goal is to minimize the stress associated with the mold remediation process. 

Chronic illness is hard enough. When you add the challenges of addressing personal health and the health of your home as well and the traumatic loss of personal belongings, it can be daunting to figure out what is the priority on your task list.  

After years of experience working with clients who are hypersensitive to the mycotoxins created by mold, the best advice we can give is to collect as much information as possible before making any significant financial decision when it comes to remediation and minimizing cross-contamination. In short, the first step is to focus on the next right step. 

woman sick with a headache from mold

Symptoms of Mold Illness (CIRS)

Mold is very much an invisible enemy. The first hurdle our clients must face is confirming that their illness’s root cause is, indeed, mold. To start, let’s take a look at what symptoms are commonly caused by mold. These symptoms have been studied and identified by Dr.Ritchie Shoemaker and confirmed by other prominent functional medicine doctors that have followed his extensive research:

  • Respiratory (asthma, sinus issues, earaches)
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Irritability, “mold rage.” 
  • Ice pick pain
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision 
  • Red eyes 
  • Tearing
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain
  • Short term memory loss
  • Morning stiffness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Heart palpitations
  • Slow wound healing
  • Sweats, especially night sweats
  • Trouble regulating temperature 
  • Ringworm and other fungal rashes
  • Problems with eyesight
  • Dark circles under eyes 
  • Food sensitivities
  • Migraines and other headaches
  • Nightmares 
  • Insomnia
  • Hair loss 
  • Decreased learning of new knowledge
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Word-recollection issues
  • Skin sensitivity
  • Mood swings
  • Appetite swings
  • Excess thirst
  • Static shocks
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Vertigo 
  • Metallic taste
  • Tremors
  • Diahrrea
  • Joint pain

There are many ways to conclude that mold is the root cause of chronic illness. Some choose to test their body first, and some people prefer to test their homes first. Most clients have an inkling that their home makes them sick, but because mold is usually not visible, pinpointing the issue does take time. The majority of people want proof of their suspicions and often need hard evidence for legal and financial reasons.

The First Step: Testing Your Home 

The first thing a qualified mold doctor will tell a patient dealing with mold symptoms is to move out of the house that is making them sick or, at the very least, take a hiatus to confirm the home is the issue. It is impossible to have substantial recovery while still living or working in a water-damaged building. For this reason, testing the house, or in some cases, the workplace is often the very first step. 

We pride ourselves on listening first to develop the testing plan that fits each client’s unique set of circumstances. In some cases, an ERMI test is all that is needed to assess the safety level of a particular place compared to a previous location. In other cases, there might be a potential lawsuit against a builder, seller, or landlord, and a comprehensive look at all places of possible water intrusion and mold infestation must be tested and properly documented. Some clients prefer to disclose and sell their property, so they are looking for minimal testing. We take all this information into careful consideration when we make our testing recommendations. 

The scientific approach of the mold testing offered by Certified Mold Assessments is designed to address your home’s holistic health. Whatever path you choose to address the water intrusion, mold remediation, or just walk away, we will provide you with the necessary facts regarding your home’s mold status. 

Spore-trap analysis, commonly referred to as air testing, is the first step in mold testing. We will take air samples of your home and compare them with the outdoor baseline. This is standard practice amongst mold and home inspectors. For the CIRS patient or client prone to allergies, it is necessary to investigate further. 

The heaviest, most toxic molds such as Stachybotrys and Chaetomium do not always show up on air testing. Their spores will settle into dust, so surface testing (a swab of dust in your home) is essential. We have multiple types of surface/dust testing, including the EPA 36 and the ERMI/HERTSMI. The ERMI/HERTSMI test will give a numbered score to the home. 

We have found the ERMI scoring system to be most beneficial when comparing homes, and CMA is proud to offer this testing to our clients. The ERMI was created based on data from EPA researchers and the 2006 HUD American Healthy Home Survey. These numeric guidelines can help hypersensitive individuals know their threshold when deciding to live in a particular dwelling. 

Other tools that help us assess your home’s total health are infrared scanning, the use of moisture meters, going into your crawlspace, VOC testing, and endotoxin and mycotoxin testing. All of these pieces can help to tell the story of water intrusion and mold infestation in your home. We take all of this information and work to connect as many dots as possible, which we present to you in the form of a comprehensive report with remediation protocol recommendations. Together, the lab and inspection results are added pieces of the puzzle to help you make an informed decision on addressing the unique issues present in your home. 

Testing Your Body 

Testing the body is a bit more complicated, as mycotoxins can be considerably elusive in the human body. That being said, the suggestions below are merely offered only as a loose guide. CMA inspectors are not medically trained, and we recommend consulting with a qualified Functional Medicine doctor who specializes in CIRS.

There are three ways to test the body, and they all suggest different things. It’s essential to understand this distinction.

  1. Mold allergy testing – this is often done by conventional doctors such as a Primary Doctor. This does not give you a definitive CIRS diagnosis, nor does it show mold levels in the body. This will indicate if you have antibodies (an allergy) to certain strains of mold.
  2. Shoemaker Labs: Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker has done extensive research on CIRS. In fact, he is the doctor that defined the guidelines for diagnosing and treating mold sickness. He is training as many doctors as possible, but he has also been very public with this knowledge and has the recommended labs and ranges on his website. Ideally, a qualified Shoemaker will review these labs and bring the immune system back into balance. These labs can be useful to diagnose CIRS. 
  3. Great Plains or RealTime Labs mycotoxin testing:These tests are urine tests that show actual levels of specific mycotoxins (that are released by mold spores) in the body. False negatives are possible, but qualified mold doctors can help address that if it happens. This test does not test for an allergy and cannot diagnose CIRS, but it can help confirm that you have been exposed. Follow-up testing helps assess the success of your mold detox protocol.

Testing the body in conjunction with testing your home is helpful to give you ample evidence that your home is making you sick. Depending on your circumstances, this information can be beneficial if you need to make a case for yourself or if you are looking to address the underlying health issues caused by mold in your home.

For further resources on testing and finding a Mold Specialist, we recommend Break the Mold – Dr. Jill Crista and Kristin Hodgkinson and Surviving Mold by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker

The Big Picture 

Each client’s situation is unique when it comes to addressing water-damaged buildings, but here is a loose order in which we can break down the magnitude of a severe mold problem:

  1. Assess your budget and resources. Do you rent or own? If you rent and are confident your home is the issue, perhaps you would best spend your money moving.
  2. Test your whole home. Get as complete a picture as possible about the potential areas of water intrusion and mold infestation. (This is where we come in!) 
  3. Come up with your game plan: remediate, disclose and sell, break your lease, or move.
  4. Work with a certified mold doctor and test your body. 
  5. Find a new safe place (test, don’t guess). 
  6. Address your belongings and be mindful of cross-contamination.
  7. Work with a certified mold doctor to detox your body of mycotoxins and rebalance your immune system. 
  8. Create a plan of maintenance to minimize mycotoxins in your daily living environment. 

Certified Mold Assessments is Here to Help

First and foremost, remember, no matter what news you get, the only difference between today and yesterday is information. Things aren’t any worse for knowing; they are better. 

Take it one step at a time – each phase is taking you forward to your total health goal. You can only make so many changes at once. Careful, thoughtful decisions will help reduce stress during a traumatic event such as mold sickness.

Whether you choose to test your home or body first, you have found your smoking gun when you couple those results with your symptoms. We are here to support you during this difficult time and hope that the resources we offer today have lightened your burden even a little. Your health is important and is our number one priority – and very much worth the battle!

For more tips, or if you are interested in learning how to prevent future mold issues or address current ones, please follow us onInstagram

Book your inspection today! We look forward to continuing the conversation. 

DISCLAIMER: CMA and CMA staff are not medical doctors, dieticians, nor nutritionists. We do not hold degrees in medicine, dietetics, or nutrition. We make no claims to any specialized medical training, nor do we dispense medical advice or prescriptions. This content is not intended to diagnose or treat any diseases. It is designed to be provided for informational, educational, and self-empowerment purposes ONLY. Please consult with your doctor or wellness team if you have any questions regarding any of the information provided here, and then make your own well-informed decisions based upon what is best for your unique genetics, culture, conditions, and stage of life.