Believe it or Not, Mold Can Cause Sinusitis
Written By: Sue
April 11, 2012
Mold and Your Sinuses
It’s time to talk about airborne allergies again. Instead of focusing on the usual culprits of trees, flowers and grasses, this blog will focus on mold, a form of fungi. While mold grows year round, spring is just the start of its proliferation; especially in a year such as this with a mild winter and wet spring.
What is mold exactly? Like most fungi, it likes moist, warm places. Mildew, which is the stuff along your shower, is the early stages of mold. Mold is an essential part of our environment as it helps to decay vegetation and enhance the soil. Mold grows in colonies and can reproduce itself within 24-48 hours. Like pollen, mold becomes airborne and that’s when you breathe it in. Indoor mold can have a negative impact on your sinuses.
Fungal sinus infections may not be something you suspect as the cause of your sinus problems, but studies show they occur at an alarmingly high rate. If you’ve ever been exposed to a moldy environment and have problems with your sinuses, you could be at risk. A study by the Mayo Clinic in 1999 revealed that 93% of all chronic sinusitis was caused by mold! This was further supported by the findings of Dr. Donald Dennis who studied 639 patients between 1989-2003. Dennis said “You breathe airborne mold particles that are in the air. Then you have an allergic reaction to these mold fragments. This reaction causes small pits to form in the membranes that line the sinuses. These pits trap mucous so that it cannot drain. The stagnant mucous gets infected, which [can] cause nasal polyps [benign growths within the nasal passages] and thickening of the lining which obstructs the outflow of mucous. The polyps then cause more infection and the infection causes more polyps. Thus, there is a vicious cycle, which perpetuates itself. If you get rid of the mold in the nose and in the air you breathe and establish drainage in blocked sinuses you can get long term relief.”
Unfortunately, fungal sinusitis mimics bacterial sinusitis so there is no way to know what you have unless a culture is taken. Below are some recommendations:
- Get a culture to properly identify your chronic sinusitis as fungal. Your GP should be able to do this for you, or at least refer you to the right specialist.
- If the test is positive, most doctors will recommend an anti-fungal pharmaceutical. Aside from pharmaceuticals there are many natural anti-fungal products on the market; medicinal plants can do the job just as well without the side effects. Visit your local herb store for suggestions and advice.
- Nasal rinse using a neti pot can be helpful to flush out mold that may be lingering within the sinus cavity. It will also help to flush out excess mucous.
- Make sure you are not continually exposing yourself to high amounts of mold. Check your home for damp places and remember if a carpet gets wet once and becomes moldy, don’t assume the mold will go away. Even if it dries out, mold spores can go dormant and then begin to grow again when the conditions are right. In addition, check the mold count in your region. Here is a great website on identifying indoor mold and safe ways to clean it up.
- Test your home for mold. Buy a home testing kit to grow a culture of the mold in your home and have it analyzed to find out exactly what you’re dealing with. Some molds are much more toxic than others.
Special note to the folks of the Greater New Orleans Region: as you may know, the mold count in New Orleans has been over the top since Hurricane Katrina. A low to moderate concentration of mold is a count of 1-12,999 spores. The Greater New Orleans Region has over 20,000 spores with a peak recording in 2005 (the year of the hurricane) of 65,000 spores! New Orleans is like a second home to me and I’ve seen what mold exposure has done to my friends. If you live in this region and are experiencing chronic sinus problems, please have a culture done of your nose.