Below you will find some frequently asked questions along with their corresponding answers. We will continue to add additional questions and answers based upon the input from our support group members and the readers of our website.

What is Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome?

The term chronic inflammatory response syndrome was created by Dr. Shoemaker to describe a multi-system, multi-symptom illness. This means that you have many different symptoms across a wide range of body systems such as digestive, neurologic, musculoskeletal, respiratory, and many more. It can be caused by exposure to the interior of water-damaged buildings, eating certain fish, having Lyme disease, or being exposed to blue-green algae that grow in the water. Chronic inflammatory response syndrome is simply another name for what many people commonly call mold illness, biotoxin illness, or post-Lyme disease syndrome. Other names for this include mycotoxicosis or mixed mold mycotoxicosis and indoor mold sensitivity and toxicity. To date, there is no one term that is universally accepted to describe this illness.

How Does Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Relate to Mold Illness?

Many mold illness patients suffer from a disorder known as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). While the exact cause of multiple chemical sensitivity is unknown, Dr. Shoemaker has found that those with MCS usually have low VIP levels. VIP has been found to be important in the way your brain responds to the input from the nerves in your nose. The use of replacement VIP as part of Dr. Shoemaker’s step-by-step protocol can be beneficial for those with MCS in helping to reduce their sensitivity to the daily onslaught of chemicals we are all exposed to. Another important step is to reduce or eliminate the volatile organic compounds found in your environment. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemical contaminants commonly found in the home and work environment and are easily released into the air that we breathe. They can be found in items such as caulks, sealants, adhesives, paints, varnishes, wall coverings, cleaning products, carpeting, vinyl flooring, fabric and furnishings, air fresheners, perfume, and personal care products among others. Look for low-VOC alternatives whenever possible, and if you are planning on redecorating or renovating your home, consider alternatives that don’t introduce these dangerous chemicals into your environment. When buying a HEPA air filter, be sure the one you choose also removes these VOCs as well. Check out this page for more information on choosing the right HEPA filter for you.

What Are Some Common Mold Exposure Symptoms And How Do I Know If I Have Mold Illness?

Because chronic inflammatory response syndrome affects a variety of different organ systems at the same time, you will usually have a number of symptoms that affect different parts of your body. These symptoms may even seem totally unrelated to you, but they are an important part of accurately diagnosing your condition. You may have previously been diagnosed with chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, depression, or even been told that your symptoms are “all in your head.” Many of the symptoms of mold illness overlap with some of these other conditions. Therefore it is important that a thorough and complete history, physical exam, and laboratory workup by a doctor experienced in and knowledgeable about treating mold illness be done to determine whether or not you are suffering from a chronic inflammatory response syndrome caused by exposure to mold and other organisms that grow in water-damaged buildings. The good news is that, unlike some of these other conditions, mold illness can be successfully treated.

Common mold exposure symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Push/crash cycle or post-exertional malaise
  • Sleep dysfunction
  • Aches and pains
  • Headache
  • Sensitivity to light, tearing, or blurred vision
  • Cough
  • Difficulty with memory, concentration, word finding, or a mental fog
  • Abdominal pain
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Sinus problems
  • Shortness of breath
  • Static shocks
  • Night sweats
  • Diarrhea/irritable bowel
  • Mood swings

You may have other symptoms as well, and those with mold illness will have multiple symptoms rather than just one or two. Taking a VCS test can also provide helpful information to determine whether further investigation is warranted. For additional information on the symptoms of biotoxin illness related to exposure to the interior environment of water-damaged buildings as well as the diagnosis and treatment of mold illness, check out Surviving Mold: Life in the Era of Dangerous Buildings. If you have a combination of the above symptoms, especially if you also have a positive VCS test, consider seeking the expertise of a physician knowledgeable in diagnosing and treating mold illness.