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A Sneeze in Slow Motion

Sneezing is a physiologic response to the irritation of the respiratory epithelium lining of the nose. The process usually begins with the release of chemicals such as histamine or leukotrienes. These substances are manufactured by inflammatory cells such as eosinophils and mast cells typically found within the nasal mucosa. Chemical release is caused by viral respiratory infections, filtered particles, allergens (substances that trigger allergic reactions) or physical irritants such as smoke, pollution, perfumes and cold air. Allergic reactions with the nasal mucosa require the presence of IgE (allergy antibody specific for the allergen). This leads to fluid leakage from vessels in the nose, causing symptoms of congestion and nasal drip. Additionally, nerve endings are stimulated, leading to the sensation of itching.

Ultimately, the nerve ending stimulation leads to activation of a reflex inside the brain. The nervous impulse travels up the sensory nerves and down the nerves controlling muscles in the head and neck, and that leads to the rapid expulsion of air. The high velocity of the airflow is achieved by the buildup of pressure inside the chest with the vocal chords closed. Sudden opening of the cords allows the pressurized air to flow back up the respiratory tract to expel the irritants. This helps to remove offending particles in the nose. However, in infected individuals, it also allows for the spread of the common cold, as innumerable viral particles are contained within each droplet of mucus expelled.

Although we all know that sneezes and coughs transmit infections, little research had been done to model how they work. To address this knowledge gap, Dr. Lydia Bourouiba and Dr. John Bush of MIT’s Applied Mathematics Lab used high speed cameras and fluid mechanics to reveal why we’ve grossly underestimated the role of gas clouds in these violent expirations.

Mold Exposure Symptoms and Treatment ‐ Are You Sick from Molds and their Toxins?

Molds and the toxins they secrete, called mycotoxins, are increasingly being recognized as a source of illness and wide range of symptoms, from mild to severe, including wheezing, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, depression, sleep disorders, skin rashes, immune suppression, kidney disease, lung disease, and even cancer. Research indicates that these symptoms arise primarily from the harmful effects of the mycotoxins, rather than from infection with the molds themselves..

Yet despite the growing body of research implicating molds and their mycotoxins as the cause of chronic illness, many within mainstream medical continue to deny the existence of mycotoxin-related illness, let alone have experience in mold exposure symptoms and treatment.

Luckily, a number of healthcare providers have made the diagnosis and treatment of mold and mycotoxin-related health conditions a priority. This series on mold exposure symptoms and treatment explores this growing (but still largely ignored and denied) health problem.

What Are Molds and Mycotoxins?
Molds are all around us, continually reproducing by releasing tiny spores that travel through indoor and outdoor air. The mold spores land on wet or damp material and begin to grow and digest the surrounding material.

Some mold spores also secrete mycotoxins, very tiny toxic substances used to destroy other microbial competitors for a food source. Mold growth and mycotoxin secretion becomes amplified in water-damaged, damp indoor environments and are understood to be the most significant contaminants of water-damaged buildings.

Mycotoxins are considered some of the most dangerous mold components. There are three groups of mycotoxins that are most relevant to health effects resulting from water-damaged structures; they are: Aflatoxins, Ochratoxin A, and Trichothecenes. These are produced from common fungi including various species of Aspergillus, Penicillium, Fusarium, and Stachybotrys species. They enter the body through inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact.

While most mycotoxin exposure in less developed parts of the world is thought to occur from ingesting contaminated food, airborne contamination from water-damaged indoor environments is now recognized as a significant source of harm in developed countries. Some studies indicate that inhalation of mycotoxins is more toxic than ingestion. People who have been exposed to such environments have been found to have mycotoxins within their bodies.

Symptoms and Diseases Associated with Mold and Mycotoxin Exposure
Mold and mycotoxin exposure can cause a wide variety of symptoms and diseases. The severity of these health effects is also highly variable and is thought to depend on many factors. Unless their exposure is overwhelming, people with healthy immune systems are generally believed to eliminate most types of mycotoxins from the body without suffering noticeable effects.

However, those already suffering from a single serious health condition or from multiple less serious conditions may not be able to easily eliminate mycotoxins, leading to symptoms.

Mold exposure symptoms include:

  • Nervous system alterations: headache, fatigue, confusion, memory loss, brain fog, depression, irritability, sleep disorders, tremors, impaired balance, impaired cognitive development in children
  • Respiratory system alterations: runny nose, stuffy nose, sinus infections, cough, wheezing, asthma, shortness of breath
  • Skin irritation,rashes, and lesions
  • Eye irritation and discharge
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Sick Building Syndrome
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
  • Vomiting, diarrhea
  • Fever, chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Infertility, disruption of estrogen function
  • Thyroid activity disruption
  • Immune suppression
  • Liver cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Pulmonary fibrosis

What to Do If You Have Mold Exposure Symptoms?

Of course, each of these symptoms and medical conditions can have numerous underlying causes. One way to help uncover whether mold exposure is the cause of your symptoms is to pay attention to whether you feel better after leaving the contaminated premises, usually a home or office. Many affected people do and may feel entirely well within a day or two. But, their problems recur when they return to the contaminated location.

If you experience any of these symptoms or medical conditions and you smell a musty odor in your home or office, check immediately for mold growing on walls, under carpets, behind shower curtains, in entry ways, closets, and crawl spaces. Not all mold problems are easily spotted, but a visual inspection on your part is an important first step. The next steps are testing and proper treatment