Pediatric Pulmonologist Dr. Jonathan Steinfeld of St. Christopher's Hospital for Children/photo courtesy of St. Christopher's Hospital
COURT HOUSE — With the reports of mold being found in classrooms in Elementary No. 1, many parents are worrying and wondering how their children who attend school in that building have been affected.
“It’s very rare for the mold in the schools to affect children,” said Jonathan Steinfeld, M.D., a pediatric pulmonologist at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Drexel University School of Medicine. “Parental concern is higher than the actual incidence.”
According to Steinfeld children cannot get asthma from inhaling the mold. If they do have asthma, however, it can make it worse.
“For children who have intermittent asthma,” he said, “if they’re allergic to it (mold), it could make their asthma persistent or more obvious.”
Asthma exacerbations do rise in the autumn, said the doctor. “One major thing to remember is that there is an increase in (asthma) in the fall. And that has to do with children gathering together again,” he said.
When it comes to their child being exposed to mold, Steinfeld said that parents should be concerned about a tie-in to mold exposure if their child’s symptoms are persistent. Included in that group of symptoms are a runny nose, cough, and congestion “that does not wax or wane.”
“If they’re not in school, it should get better,” said Steinfeld. “From a lung standpoint,” he added, “it would be wheezing and coughing.”
According to the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF), allergic reactions to mold may include nasal or sinus congestion; sensitivity to light; sneezing; sore throat; cough; skin irritation; shortness of breath; headaches; watery, reddened or burning eyes; fatigue.
A child with an undiagnosed allergy to mold may have his or her symptoms exacerbated if exposed.
“Molds usually cause adverse health effects when they are inhaled in large numbers,” said the NCEF website.
“Some people report no problems even in very moldy environments; persons who are allergic to molds may respond to just a very few spores,” it continued.
Length of exposure seems to play a factor in allergic reactions, according to the NCEF. “The severity of the health effect depends on factors such as the amount and type of mold, how close the person is to areas of mold growth, how much time he or she spends in the building, and the person’s susceptibility to mold’s effects.”
Eliminating the mold is one thing experts agree on.
“Indoor air quality experts agree,” said the NCEF, “that buildings that contain visible mold or moldy odors increase the risk of health problems. Molds should be removed from buildings promptly, using methods that protect the safety and health of the occupants and the staff per-forming the clean up.”
“If parents have questions,” said Steinfeld, “they should speak to their pediatrician.”