Friday, October 30, 2015

Misdiagnosis in General and of Children in Particular

Many years ago, my boss at the time and I were called out to a very famous aging celebrity’s house to inspect and test his environment.  He had come up with a respiratory illness that included coughing up blood.  The doctors were treating him for bacterial and viral infections but having no success with eliminating or reducing the symptoms.  Needless to say he and his wife were quite concerned.   They lived in a very exclusive and luxurious high-rise condo.  We questioned them both as we performed a general inspection of the residence.  Something unusual we found with our questioning was that he liked sleeping in a very cool room.  He set his thermostat to 60 degrees no matter the temperature outside.  With summer temperatures sometimes reaching well over 100 degrees, the A/C system was often working overtime. 

We inspected the air conditioning unit and took a sample from the coil.  It was analyzed for mold and significant growth of Penicillium/Aspergillus type molds were found.  These two mold types are indistinguishable under a microscope so are often listed together.  More specific analysis could have been done, but would have taken up to two weeks for culturing.  Judging by the symptoms, we suspected that a pathogenic species of Aspergillus was probably involved.  We provided a report that included a description of Aspergillosis, which is a lung infection usually caused by the Aspergillus species fumigatus.  One of the major symptoms is coughing up blood.  The report was provided to the doctor who treated him for Aspergillosis and the patient got better. 

I have been aware of the dangers of misdiagnosis ever since I can remember.  My mother’s brother, whom I never met, died at a time when Penicillin was considered a miracle drug that could cure virtually anything.  He had a minor illness and was given Penicillin to treat it.  He got worse and developed a rash.  He was given more Penicillin and got worse.  They continued to increase the dosage until he died.   He was one of the first documented cases of a patient dying from Penicillin allergy.

So early on I was encouraged to keep my own council.  Medical science continues to advance, which is a boon to us all, but doctors are not infallible, so if something doesn’t seem correct, question it.  Do your own research and get a second or third or fourth opinion. 

When it comes to diagnosing children, they are often diagnosed as “hyperactive” just for being children.  This is particularly true of boys.  Boys tend to be aggressive and can’t sit still.  It could be due to just being a kid or there might be other factors, but being diagnosed as hyperactive usually means they need to be put on drugs. 

If a child appears to be more active than we might expect from just being a child, the easiest (laziest) remedy it seems to me is to encourage a drug regimen.  That makes the child easier to control.  But how about looking to the child’s environment or diet?  Pop Tarts or sweet rolls or sweetened cereal or pancakes with lots of syrup might not be the best choices for breakfast when the child is expected to sit at a desk and pay attention for two or three hours without a break.  Sugar highs make it very difficult to be calm and concentrate.

There are aspects of the child’s environment that could be causing all sorts of problems with school work.  Exposure to some molds is believed to cause a variety of symptoms that might be mistaken for laziness, inattention, lack of interest or being out of control.  According to researcher and medical practitioner, Anna Manayan, of Immune Matrix, LLC, exposure to some molds can “…lead to marked increase in symptoms a few hours after exposure.  These symptoms include brain fog, fatigue, sleepiness, aggressive behavior, anger outbursts, irritability, and hyperactivity.  Children seem to show more marked reactivity because their brains are developing and coatings of their neurons are not completely methylated.´ (Methylation is a very complex process but suffice to say it is critical for the insulation around nerves that allows signals to transmit properly.

So in addition to making any needed adjustments to the diet, check the house and especially the bedroom for indications of mold growth.  If it is an older house with plaster walls that are generally not insulated, check for mold growth on walls.  Often it is hidden behind cabinets, chests or pictures hanging on walls.  There is restricted airflow in these locations, so condensation does not dry quickly.  The moisture can foster mold growth on organic material in the paint or any in the dust that have attached to the wall.

I once inspected a house where three boys shared a room.  They were exhibiting respiratory symptoms and not doing well in school.  They lived in an old house with plaster walls that were not insulated.  Windows and the door to their room were closed at night.  Breathing of three individuals can produce a lot of moisture.  I looked behind some pictures that were leaning against an exterior-facing wall and behind a chest-o-drawers and found mold growth.  Condensation was forming on the cold wall from the high humidity warm air in the room.  This was easily fixed by washing the walls using a bleach solution with a small amount of non-ammoniated detergent added and leaving a window and the door to the room slightly open so there is air change in the room to reduce humidity.  If this does not fully handle the mold problem, it might be necessary to have a dehumidifier running in the room at night.

Newer houses with walls constructed of drywall are quite susceptible to mold growth if there is water intrusion into the wall cavity.   Sleeping in a room where there is exposure to molds for eight or more hours a day can be the most problematic exposure in that sleep is supposed to help repair the body.  Probably not the best situation when an allergen, toxin or pathogen is tearing the body down.

I have numerous examples of health problems due to mold exposure.  There are protocols available for removing mold.  In cases where remediation doesn’t totally handle the symptoms, an anti-fungal diet has been successful when followed closely.  It is a subject that can be addressed in another post.  Additionally, some spices have anti-fungal (mold) properties.  These include garlic, ginger, cayenne and goldenseal.

The best solution is to limit mold exposure.  Obviously, we are all exposed to molds every day.  Mold spores are everywhere and are quite necessary for decomposition of organic matter.  Even though the total volume of mold outside is generally greater than a normal indoor environment, people seldom experience illness or discomfort due to mold exposure outside.   But with mold growth inside, the amount of exposure to particular types of mold that are known to be allergenic, possible toxin-producing, or pathogenic can be greater.  Molds that grow on water damaged building materials are often those known to be most problematic to humans.  Control of moisture inside occupied buildings is paramount for avoiding exposure to molds that can be detrimental to health.

Awareness of health conditions due to mold exposure is growing and might now be somewhere in the diagnostician’s tool box.   A problem could be that medical science has become accustomed to dealing with illnesses using antibiotics as a first line of defense.  Antibiotics generally work well against bacteria, but are ineffective for viral and most fungal infections.  Our first approach for diagnosing any illness should be to identify, if possible, the source of the exposure likely to have fostered the illness.

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