Invisible Biting Mites and Black Mold
It’s black mould spores. It absolutely is.
They seem to give you small mosquito-bite-like welts and crawling, pinprick sensations. It gets everywhere and makes your home attractive to whatever opportunistic springtails, mites, or gnats happen to be passing by.
I didn’t believe it at first. Then I read a blog in which the author described finding toxic mould in her humidifier, and I thought, "But I don’t have a humidifier, or even air conditioning! My house seems dry as a bone." But as the various remedies and daily bleachings/launderings had no effect, I thought it might be worthwhile having a hunt. And lo, on the bottom of the fridge (which has a dodgy door that doesn’t always shut properly) was a layer of black/dark green mould.
My symptoms started in April (we’re in France so that’s the start of the warmer weather): tiny, pinprick sensations while in different areas around the house. In our bed and on sofas there was dust that felt like itching powder. I also felt these unnerving crawling sensations on my bum whenever I sat on the sofa or on upholstered/wooden/rattan chairs, or on my back while in bed at night.
What really flummoxed me was how quickly I would feel crawling when I sat on a chair. How could anything get through my clothing to be right up against my skin so fast? I can’t imagine a worm/nematode moving so swiftly, or even a springtail (don’t they move by jumping?). It has to be a dust mite, or perhaps a spore (but, eww, can they crawl with intent?! Yikes.). Whatever it was definitely wanted to be anywhere on my body it was moist and warm!
At first the crawling and bites were the worst part. But in late September, after I had blitzed the house in a bleach-cleaning frenzy (it was also around the time the weather got cooler and drier), I felt invisible, midge-like things flying at my face at night. It was difficult to sleep. My young kids would wake up, unsettled by the itching, and I’d lie awake for the rest of the night, my mind reeling and roiling, feeling like I was under attack by thousands of miniscule dust-like insects, some flying, some crawling.
My car became infested, and also my chair at work. At the height of the affliction, I would feel crawling sensations in my trousers, as well as on my face and hair, and once something flying into my eyes.
There was definitely something physical there. I remember the occasional colleague swatting at their face when they came to talk to me, or blinking something out of their eye all of a sudden. But whatever it was, it was nearly impossible to make out. I did notice the odd tiny hair or particle of dust floating off me with more propulsion than you’d expect from a bit of hair or dust. It was usually in the corner of my vision, and would sort of ping off lazily and float away.
Anyway, long story short: After almost seven months, we located the mould, cleaned it off with vinegar, and that night, for the first time in ages, my family and I all slept through until morning. Not a whimper from the dogs, who usually yelped and barked between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. (when the spores and fungus-eating mites were most active). I lay in my bed, just somehow knowing that it was over, that I wasn’t going to feel any more symptoms.
The next day in the kitchen I felt some stirrings in my freshly cleaned trousers as I sat on a wooden chair, but it was hugely subdued compared with what I’d felt before. It struck me that naturally, there would still be mould spores around the house and undoubtedly it would take time before my family’s bodies could detoxify enough to stop attracting the bugs (if there even were bugs).
I was the member of the family being most attacked. So, for about a fortnight leading up to the mould revelation I had put myself on a strict anti-candida diet, cutting out carbs and sugar. I felt and looked so much better. Now, my symptoms are occasional and faint. For the past two nights my bed has been an oasis of tranquil inactivity. Now it's focused in one of my children's bedrooms and also that of my partner. I'm hoping it's down to straggler spores, but I'm ready to tear up the floorboards to look for more mould, if the symptoms continue.
Getting Rid of Mold in My Home
- Note: Be careful not to disturb the mold itself until the specialists arrive. Also, try to avoid fluctuations in temperature or humidity in the affected area. The last thing you want is more spores being released into your home.
- For cleaning other areas, I found natural detergent from the organic shop to be far more effective that bleach on the floors. The bottle I bought had clove, eucalyptus and pine essential oils in. It smelled so much better than horrible bleach. It was almost a pleasure to mop!
- I wrapped the mattresses in plastic sheeting and taped it up. I also put the pillows in plastic bags, taping them shut too. Luckily we have removable covers on the sofa, so I bagged up the cushions and put the covers back over them.
- I regularly rubbed down surfaces with a bleachy damp cloth (esp windowsills, aiming at snaffling a few springtails)
- I went a bit mad on laundry, and this was definitely overkill, but I put worn clothing into two binbags to be washed—one dark (to soak in ammonia first) and one light (to soak in bleach). The pre-soaks had good results on my crawly trousers, but it never lasted, as they’d become infected from car/office/wherever within a day. I found a large plastic bucket really helped here, to create an ordered system in the bath/washroom and free up the bath.
- I also closed the bedroom doors at night because the cats would come and sleep on our beds and I could literally feel the mites/spores hopping off them and on to me.
- I stayed away from the sofas as much as possible, also kept iPad/iPhone/laptop activity to a minimum, especially in bed, as this attracted the flying things.
Getting Rid of Mold in My Body
Some of the things I tried that seemed to work:
[Note from two years later: I now believe that the mould infection was purely external (i.e., in the house/walls and not in our bodies. I got the body invasion idea from a bunch of terrifying online chatrooms that seemed to be discussing something different). So these treatments might not be necessary.]
- Teaspoon of colloidal silver three times a day (wow, the die-off symptoms were mind-blowing – two days of migraine-like headaches kicked in on Day 3 and two revolting hives appeared on one thigh. Something disgusting was definitely dying in my stomach.)
- Teaspoon of turmeric powder each night (moving on to a mixture of turmeric, cinnamon and clove) swilled about in some water and knocked back with great stoicism
- Fermented cabbage juice: half a glass twice a day (easy to make yourself)
- No alcohol (well, I couldn’t quite manage that of course, and paid for it the following two days with a spike in symptoms)
- I also took a multivitamin tablet every night, along with a B vitamin complex tablet and capsule of powdered Apple Cidre Vinegar (knocking back a mouthful of the liquid would probably be more powerful though)
- I drank herbal teas. Pau D’arco and a floral blend that promised to treat candida
- I ate well: fish, green veg, plenty of water
- I took a daily "spore-be-gone" capsule (ordered from Amazon) with lunch each day
- Colloidal silver, cabbage juice and clove oil (on the skin) were the clinchers, though. Possibly also the turmeric/spices (hard to know as I was doing everything at once). I really felt my body chemistry change
On my skin, I used:
- Organic coconut oil
- Garnier 7-day body moisturiser with L-Bifidus (curiously, the same thing that fights candida in your gut)
- Clove essential oil: a drop or two added to moisturiser before bed kept the biting/crawling at bay amazingly well.
The detox diet I followed:
- Cutting out carbs, sugar and yeast helped enormously. It doesn't have to be forever, just until you get the mold-induced "candida" in your stomach under control. (Long-term exposure to toxic mold leads to chemical imbalances and yeast overgrowth.)
- Cut down alcohol consumption.
- Plenty of green vegetables, fish, and chicken.
- Bulgar wheat is a good (if uninspiring) alternative to pasta, rice, and bread.
- Plenty of garlic and spices.
- Lots of liquid, preferably something antifungal, such as Pau D'arco tea.
- Apple cider vinegar capsules.
- Spore-be-gone capsules.
- Neem capsules.
- Coconut oil capsules.
- Fermented cabbage juice.
- Lemon juice and baking soda.
- Turmeric powder (one teaspoon a day).
- B Vitamins.
- Vitamin C.
For the kids:
- Grapefruit seed extract in liquid form (easier to sneak into their fruit juice).
- MSM powder mixed in with juices.
- Colloidal silver, also mixed with drinks (I put a bit in the cat's water too).
- Sweet multivitamins.
In the bath:
- Apple cider vinegar (one cup).
- Baking soda is also good.
- MSM powder.
- Clove essential oil.
And on the mold itself:
- White vinegar and clove oil
- Again, be careful not to disturb the mold itself until the specialists arrive.
Anyway, that’s where I am so far. I think I’ve cracked it, although will expect a slow and bumpy road to total recovery. Now I'm focusing on detoxing the family innards, with supplements, veg-heavy meals, probiotic yoghurts, a bit of fermented cabbage juice snuck into the kids' apple juice. I read somewhere that grapefruit seed extract is good for this kind of detox, so I'll try that too.
My partner is still feeling crawling in his bed (which I vacated weeks ago to make myself a test subject in my own bedroom/lab) and I’m still feeling a much subdued version at my desk. So we'll see.
I’ll let you know if this turns out to be a blind alley. But in the meantime, have hope, all ye in peril on this sea of madness. Be strong, be kind to yourselves, try to get out of the house and distract yourselves with the good things in life. But, most importantly, find that mould!
Update: Two Years On
We cracked it.
After we persuaded the landlord to remove the mould from the walls, things cleared up. There was heaps of the horrible stuff apparently, though hidden beneath layers of paint and wallpaper) and it was a big cleanse-and-replaster job. Two months later and the crawly, nippy sensations were gone, as was the feeling that tiny invisible bugs were landing on you at night.
We lived another year in that house, all the while jumping at every mosquito bite or tiniest itch, ever expecting it all to return, but it never did. We now live in another house, and though I sometimes feel itches from my mattress, sofa and carpet, it's nothing like the plague of invisible insects we experienced before.
We still talk about it and wonder what on earth it all was, and how we managed to survive it. I know you're probably, like me, reading all the horror stories online about morgellons and weird bacterial infections - but I now believe it really was all external and simply related to a bad case of mould. It got into our clothes and sheets and unholstery, but I don't think it affected us internally as much as I was convinced it was doing at the time. (I know I wrote in my original uncorrected post that 'it gets into your blood' - I wish I could erase that hysterical assumption, as it'll only cause further alarm to the poor people suffering the same thing.) As soon as the mould was gone, our symptoms cleared up.
I think we carry a sensitivity to it (apparently it's normal to be 'sensitised' by exposure to certain types of mould, and I do believe the type we dicovered - chaetomium - is particularly insidious/virulent) - which is why I now itch at first contact with dust mites in carpets and fabrics.
A word on the dust mites: I have a theory that they were instrumental in spreading the mould around our house and into mattresses, sofa cushions etc. According to yet more stuff I read on the web, dust mites adore mould and their population size rockets when they find a source of it to eat. They don't digest it though, so it sort of circulates through their bodies and back into and around the house, delightfully. I think that's why we still feel the odd tickle in bed. That or it's all the diatomaceous earth I rubbed into the mattress!
Another thought I had: around the same time as the symptoms started, we came into contact with a nest of processionary caterpillars, those furry little beasts who live in a candy-floss-like nest at the top of pine trees (we live in France). They came down the tree in April and after my daughter and I came into contact with them in the garden, we both came out in spots for a week or so. The little caterpillar hairs got into our laundry and continued itching and bothering us for a month. I don't know if it's related, but worth mentioning.