Key Indicators That Mold May Be Causing Your Child’s Health Problems

by Dr. Susan Tanner, MD

Even though most of my articles are directed primarily to adult patients, I would be remiss to not mention the impacts on children, some of them unique, who have been exposed to mold and mycotoxins. Prior to my practice in Environmental Medicine, I was a general/family practitioner and saw quite a few children in those years. In treating children, many times alongside their parents, one thing I was taught and know for certain is that children are not just little adults!  A growing, developing child is different systemically and has different needs than an adult.  Hormonal and immunologic influences and actions are also quite different in a child’s maturing body.  Further, because of a child’s smaller body mass, robust immune reactivity to an antigen like mold can manifest faster and with more obvious symptoms than in adults.

Key Indicators of Mold Exposure in Children

When discussing the topic of mold exposure in children, the first thing many people look for are signs of mold allergy or the development of asthma. Heightened or increased allergies, along with the incidence of multiple ear infections, sinusitis, rashes, and headaches are key indicators that indoor air definitely needs to be evaluated! Indoor air quality should never be discounted when a child starts to have recurring or chronic health issues. The unfortunate thing is that most doctors and parents alike do not think to question or look to the environment as the culprit. Further, even though most of these infections do not start out as bacterial infections needing antibiotics, children are given antibiotic medications, sometimes to excess, to alleviate symptoms which can then create additional health issues and symptoms further down the road. For example, when antibiotics are given too frequently and early in life, yeast overgrowth can begin, become problematic, and then carry forward into adult years. Yeast overgrowth and high histamine reactivity early in life has been shown to contribute to anxiety, trouble focusing, sugar and alcohol cravings, irritability, and a whole host of other issues that are most often blamed on other things and then treated with other pharmaceuticals that just continue to treat symptoms and not the cause. It is a cycle that can continue long into adulthood.

A Blind Spot

For some reason, with children especially, there seems to be environmental blindness. Our media and conventional medicine discuss much regarding proper nutrition, education, and immunization, but never address indoor air being included as an integral part of health and development. As with adults, clean air should be the first step in treating any chronic medical problems in children. The majority of our time, especially while sleeping, is spent indoors. And while the home is the starting place when looking for sources of exposure, there are times when schools, churches, and gyms, must also be examined with a critical eye for mold. It is my opinion that indoor air evaluation should be carried out in every home, especially when children are present!  Making sure your indoor air is clean and mold-free is arguably the most important step in raising healthy, resilient, and happy children.

Symptoms That Mold Might Be a Culprit in Your Child’s Health Problems

As stated before, respiratory infections, whether chronic ear, sinus, or throat manifestations are common indicators of an environmental reaction.  If these symptoms are frequent for your child, ask that fungal cultures be done when seeking medical care. These cultures are the first step. Then, urine mycotoxin testing is also very helpful in determining if the cause is fungal rather than bacterial.

A more troubling symptom of possible mold/mycotoxin exposure is behavioral. This can manifest as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS).  PANS may present with the following symptoms:

Tics or jerky movements;

Anxiety, depression, or mood swings;

Hyperactivity or aggression;

Using babytalk, acting clingy, or having new bedtime fears;

Sudden trouble with handwriting or other fine motor skills;

New trouble with memory, reading, or math;

New bedwetting or insomnia;

Compulsions (rituals).

PANS was first described as Pediatric Acuter-onset Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcus (PANDAS), which included many of the above behaviors but specifically, the obsessive/compulsive disorder appearing suddenly and as a sequela to a Group A Streptococcal infection.

By contrast, PANS may be caused by the aftermath of a number of infections, such as flu, chickenpox, mycoplasma, and Lyme disease.  What is not mentioned often enough is that mycotoxins can cause exactly these symptoms and, in fact, may weaken immunity to the extent that the other infections are able to take hold and cause more problems.

It is thought that the reason these behaviors erupt is that instead of attacking the organism or ridding the toxins, the immune system targets a part of the brain by mistake. This part of the brain is called the basal ganglia, and it affects feelings, thoughts, movement, and other behaviors.  The studies indicate that inflammation and irritation in this part of the brain are what elicit the symptoms.

Bear in mind, that not every child with OCD or ADHD has an infection or mycotoxin exposure, but these should be tested for and evaluated!  Proper treatment may well include psychiatric medications and cognitive-behavioral therapies, but it also MUST involve direct treatment of the infection or the toxicity if present.

Treatment for Children

I must reiterate that the air must be addressed as the first order of business.  All the antibiotics and antifungals in the world will not help much, if at all when the air the child is continuously breathing is contaminated. Calming down the immune system, particularly as the gut is impacted, through proper diet and immune restoration is necessary.  Probiotics and products containing immunoglobulins, like IgG Gut Protect can both be very helpful here.  If yeast is a problem, CitriDrops Dietary Supplement drops added to water or diluted in juice can be safely used to help reduce the fungal load.  CitriDrops Nasal Spray may also be used if sinuses seem to be the target of infection. For younger children saline nasal washes are wonderful because they are drug-free and can be used whenever an exposure occurs.

The Main Takeaway

A big takeaway here is that if you are having health issues due to mold/mycotoxins in your home and you have children, they may well be impacted but with different presentations.  Swift action on their behalf can prevent long-term, health-destructive impacts!  I encourage you to work with your pediatrician.  While the environment may not be their area of expertise, presenting the findings in your own evaluations should provide them with the evidence needed to pursue this further.

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