Sinusitis and Mold Sensitivity Evaluation Can Save You Time, Money, and Misery
By Cesar Collado
House MD (a favorite TV Show of mine) repeatedly illustrated the importance of looking beyond lab diagnostics to situations, circumstances, and patient environments for the underlying causes to their illnesses. Dr. House and his team often did not rely on patient responses to questions about their illnesses. Instead, they performed regular ‘inappropriate and illegal’ searches of patients’ homes and/or offices in order to find the environmental answers behind their oftentimes peculiar and rare illnesses. While this is TV fiction, without this subterfuge and detective work, the patient would not have been helped by regular medical intervention and lines of treatment. Thus, the notion that the causal clues to sickness might not be obvious can be true with many medical issues.
A more practical (and ethical) solution is practiced by Dr. Dennis. He
uses a simple triage process to identify or eliminate mold as the cause early in the diagnostic process. This saves the patient both time and money. Since mold can manifest as an allergy, immune system dysfunction, or chronic illness, a patient can find themselves in an endless path of diagnostics, specialists, and misdiagnoses, costing the patient significant amounts of time, money pain and discomfort. In my article “Taking Mold off the Table,” I discuss this triage method in detail.
One of the diagnostic tools that Dr. Dennis uses is a short
questionnaire that can serve as a roadmap to further questions, treatment steps, diagnostics, or environmental testing. This same questionnaire is available for free online. It can instantly provide you with a wealth of information about whether or not mold in your environment is causing your health issues. These clues can then lead to cost-effective and efficient diagnostic testing to address the illness.
I thought I would walk through the evaluation on this site to better illustrate information that is critical to focus on to get better. I did it on my iPhone so you can see the screens and how easy it is. After reading this article, my hope is that you find 5 minutes to take this free, brief test for you to see how your own answers will lead to more precise and efficient medical care.
I’ll walk through each section to illustrate the ease and speed with which you can identify and obtain powerful information that can help you and your physician find answers related to the cause of your illness.
Section 1: Sinus History:
Since the vast majority of mold exposures occur through inhalation, it only makes sense to ask qu
estions about sinus health. The first section asks questions regarding previous episodes of sinusitis and nasal symptoms.
Of particular importance here is the clarity you can provide your doctor regarding chronic sinusitis (vs. Acute). These questions address symptoms and also provide answers to a couple binary questions about allergies and previous sinus surgeries. All of this information is important to the physician for a proper diagnosis.
For purposes of illustrating my points as I go, I will take the evaluation and show screenshots as I proceed.
While I do not have sinus issues, I did identify that I do have a loss of smell and “at night my nose feels stopped up.”
Section 2: Your Environment
Most physicians focus on symptoms and rarely ask about your
home. Most have not been trained in this line of questioning. More obvious, their schedules are often full, and they want to stay on schedule. It is up to us (the patients) to point things out to focus our limited exam time with a general practitioner. If you are seeing a doctor that focuses on mold, they usually schedule much more time to be thorough.
This section asks specific questions about your home regarding dampness and flooding. Embedded in the list are questions about your HVAC system and its surroundings. One question asks, “Is your heater located in the attic with blown-in insulation?” While this question seems irrelevant, it is important as microscopic fiberglass fibers can get into ventilation. These particles create “divots” in the sinuses that house and protect mold and create a better environment for reproduction and infection.
On my survey, I recognized that I did have a flood that resulted from a washing machine problem. This is critical as water-damaged homes expose drywall to moisture that is then absorbed and maintained unless repaired. In my case, I had Servpro come in with dryers to ensure mold did not have the 24-48 hours of wetness that it requires to take hold. It is also important to note that some mycotoxin-producing molds are often found in water-damaged homes. To be more specific, aspergillus, stachybotrys, and penicillium are often found where moisture meets gypsum drywall. These species produce potent toxins that can cause cognitive, neurological, and motor function symptoms. These are the “scariest” symptoms patients complain about.
The questionnaire also asks obvious questions like whether you can see mold. It also asks less obvious questions about how you feel away from your home and office and whether you have a pet.
Section 3: Additional History:
The final section asks questions about numerous symptoms that may not be obvious or noticeable to you, but, that have significant relevance to determine if you have symptoms indicative of other chronic illnesses. These are often not taken into consideration by your physician.
The most important question, in my opinion, asks you to rank your energy level. This symptom is often overlooked by the best of us who trudge through fatigue every workday, thinking it is just stress or normal.
These symptoms may seem far-fetched for mold; however, mold and mycotoxins can severely compromise a person’s health and wellbeing. If you do not ask yourself about these symptoms in the context of mold, it may be improbable that either you or your physician will connect the dots. For example, headaches, pains, gut problems, memory loss, tremors, etc. are all symptoms people often experience, but attribute to other illnesses, a “bug,” or stress.
Once you are finished, you will receive an email indicating your score. The score will provide you with an indication of the severity of your symptoms and some suggestions.
I shared some of my own personal answers to the questions. As you can see below, my response was calculated into a score showing my Sinus Severity Score as Slight.
What does that mean? It means my physician can “take mold off the table.” If my results had indicated my symptoms as more severe, taking the evaluation could save me multiple visits to specialists, expensive imaging diagnostics, and unnecessary medications like antidepressants or pain medications. All of these steps would have lengthened my journey to wellness, and not helped me to find any answers or relief.
This evaluation provides extremely valuable information to both you and your physician. It empowers you to bring up issues, ask questions, and streamline your treatment plan. It also can provide piece of mind to you that your home is a healthy home for you, your family, pets, and guests.
What this evaluation cannot do is diagnose or treat any illness. Please read the disclaimers to understand that all information gathered from taking it will be used by you and your physician to more accurately diagnose your condition and to find or eliminate mold as a contributor to your illness.
The bittersweet byproduct of this evaluation is that it may require some repairs, remediation, or thoughtful cleaning of your home, sinuses, and clothes. The upside is that these repairs are often dwarfed by the alternative medical bills and additional hardship.
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Cesar Collado is a former pharmaceutical R&D executive, venture capitalist, and seasoned strategy consultant in biotechnology and technology industries in general. He currently works as an advisor to multiple technology start-ups and advises several companies that provide healthcare and other services for environmental illness.