Image Credit: Infrogmation – “New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: Mold sprouted from minor storm leaks in bedroom of an unflooded home.”
A mold sabbatical: the most effective way to learn your reactions to biotoxins
The most effective way, in our experience, is to isolate and observe one’s reactions to biotoxin exposure through a “mold sabbatical”. Optimally, this practice can give you the power to choose locations and living spaces that you won’t react inside. The skills we gained from our mold avoidance sabbaticals allowed us to find living spaces we could tolerate using no form of testing other than our own senses. This method turned out to be much more effective than the mold testing we had previously used on several homes.
A mold sabbatical is a temporary trip away from exposure to your home, region and belongings. This can be done camping, in a hotel or motel, or any other form of lodging. Camping removes the risk of accidentally choosing a moldy building and is often the most affordable option, but isn’t workable for everyone. My husband and I brought a tent as a backup option in case we chose lodging we reacted to, and also to expand the range in which we could travel. But we stayed in motels or hotels for the majority of the time.
Over the duration of your trip see if your symptoms change with new locations. If you are concerned you might not remember or notice you could fill out a “rate your symptoms” list like many doctor’s offices use. Fill one out before you leave, and then again towards the end of your trip, then a day or two after your first “test”.
The organization Paradigm Change provides a free book on how to successfully take a mold sabbatical called A Beginner’s Guide to Mold Avoidance. It’s an excellent, easy read.
How to “test” yourself for reactions to your home/belongings
Towards the end of a mold sabbatical trip, expose yourself to a washed item from home, like a wooden spoon. Trey and I recommend not using clothing, or any items with perfumes, fabric softeners, or items that have been exposed to washing machines. Items like these can be contaminated with other substances that may cloud your initial test.
Make sure you’ve kept this item secured away from you during the trip, or if you aren’t sure you can do that, mail it to yourself ahead of time. Many private campgrounds, motels and hotels accept mail for visitors.
This test was incredibly revealing for us. Trey and I found we reacted to even well-washed items from our home. Symptoms that had dissipated came back and we had some new ones. For me it was very profound. Sniffing contaminated belongings created almost instant chest tightness, sinus or ear pain, brain fog and then triggered a migraine. Trey’s symptoms were more subtle: throat swelling or tightening, brain fog, feeling agitated. He would also have nerve pain return, but usually several hours to a day later.
This testing method can help you determine if you are reacting to your home and items in your home. It can also help you figure out if those items can be cleaned to the degree you need in order to stop reacting.
Please note, this is only a short summary of how this process works. Before attempting this process, please read the book A Beginner’s Guide to Mold Avoidance. There are many preparation steps that can make a sabbatical easier, more effective, and also help you prepare for your next step post-avoidance – when you may be too sensitive to re-enter your home. I have not set foot in my home since leaving it.
Once we knew what we needed to avoid and how we felt in different locations, our healing journey began.
Other free tests that may indicate biotoxin exposure:
Online Biotoxin Illness Test
The free Biotoxin Illness Test at Biotoxinjourney.com. This test has good accuracy with people who have multiple chronic symptoms. (It may not be quite as accurate for a person who is still basically high-functioning but suspects biotoxin exposure.) Both Trey and I came up as very likely to have a biotoxin induced illness on this test, and we were at very different levels of illness. This test was accurate for both of us.
Online VCS testing
Visual Contrast Sensitivity testing is a vision test you can perform online to attempt to determine exposure to biotoxins. It can be useful for some people, but has a higher false negative rate. It’s a pass/fail, but the results are thought to correlate with certain types of exposures. Simply put, if you don’t have biotoxin illness you will most likely pass, however some people with biotoxin illness will still pass. Some doctors have noticed that people with very good vision or a job where they use their vision diligently – like artists, or pilots – will often pass a VCS test even if they are ill.
While still in our original moldy home I failed the VCS test in both eyes. Once we left our original badly moldy home but were still living in a bad-for-us region, I eventually passed the test. It seemed to indicate my partial recovery.
I am severely nearsighted and wear glasses or contacts. Although my prescription had not changed, my vision had worsened significantly the last year of living in our moldy home. Towards the end of our time there I could no longer safely drive at night, and reading a book or even on the computer was increasingly difficult. Since learning to avoid biotoxin exposure and working on detox support, my eyes have healed and I can drive at night without issue, plus read computer writing comfortably.
However, Trey has always passed the VCS test, no matter where we were living or how sick he felt. He has excellent vision and uses his eyes a lot. So this test method was only accurate for me.
In the end, using a mold sabbatical to start the journey of becoming experts on ourselves (on our own reactions to biotoxins) was the best thing we could have done. Not only did we learn our reactions to our contaminated home, belongings and outdoor regions – we learned how to avoid more exposures, what areas we did well in, and how much better we could feel just by the act of changing location and being away from our contaminated belongings.
If you haven’t yet read the story of our first mold sabbatical, you can do so at Honeycolony.com, the article “How I Discovered I was a Mold Warrior”. It goes into detail about our experience. The only thing we wish we would have done differently… is to have done it sooner.
Kim & Trey