PANS and PANDAS are neuroimmune illnesses that are near and dear to my heart because we have seen firsthand the devastating effects they can have on children and their families. I became interested in these conditions years ago after learning that children exposed to toxic mold in water-damaged buildings can go on to develop PANS and other neurological and neuroimmune conditions.
Many fail to realize that the toxins inside water-damaged buildings can work synergistically and cause severe damage to inhabitants, especially children.
I’ve said this for over a decade, and I’ll keep saying it until I die. If you are feeling sick or your child is experiencing strange and debilitating symptoms, and there seems to be no concrete explanation, always rule out your environment because it could be the culprit.
None of the Doctors I saw in the earlier years of my health decline asked about my environment or even considered it could be the cause of my worsening symptoms. We need to do better for ourselves and for our children.
I never knew that prolonged exposure to toxic mold could injure my health. Before working in a sick building, I was in great health, but that all changed quickly.
Always pay attention if your children start to display new symptoms out of nowhere. Symptoms of a mold-injured brain or a brain affected by a Strep infection can start out and be as simple as feeling tired and irritable. They can also include feeling fatigued, dizzy, foggy thinking, memory loss, learning regression, rage episodes, depression, frequent urination, constant respiratory infections, sleep issues, food restriction, rashes, vision loss, headaches, sudden OCD, new or sudden tics and more. If you suspect toxic mold as a culprit, pay attention if these symptoms occur or get worse at home, school, or work. It is imperative to always rule out your environment. If you suspect that your child has symptoms of PANDAS which is brought on by a Strep infection have their pediatrician culture swabs of the nose, and throat, and if need be swab the perianal area. Although rapid Strep tests are a valuable tool, they can sometimes give false negatives, so always opt for a culture to be done.
And please understand that you cannot use discipline or consequences to stop a child from experiencing symptoms related to a toxin-induced injury. The same is true for young adults.
An injured brain can show up as involuntary movements, full body shaking, a drop in IQ, learning regression, twitching, vocal tics, depression, changes in mood, reduced attention span, and even suicidal thoughts. Punishing a child or trying to discipline them because of their symptoms is NOT the solution.
You have to avoid/remove triggers and gently support the brain and the rest of the body so that healing can take place.
If you’d like to hear a little about my story and about how dangerous it is to live or work in a moldy building, check out this podcast I did and be sure to share it with others so that we can raise awareness and help people who may be suffering without knowing that it’s their environment making them sick. To read about how mold and mycotoxins can affect the body, click here.
Below I’ve listed a few resources and links that may be helpful to you if you are caring for someone with one of these illnesses. Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram, where I also share about PANS and Mold Illness.
What is PANS? PANS & PANDAS are two similar conditions related to neuropsychiatric changes in children due to toxic and infectious triggers. PANS stands for Pediatric Acute Neuropsychiatric Syndrome. One of the main differences between PANS & PANDAS is that the etiology for PANDAS has been established as Group A Streptococcal (GAS) infections since the 1990s. PANS, which was only coined in 2012 (1), denotes PANDAS-like cases where strep could not be implicated as the cause of symptoms, and often another causal microbe or toxin was detected, such as Bartonella (2), Epstein-Barr virus, Mycoplasma Pneumoniae, Lyme disease (though less often), Varicella Zoster (aka chicken pox), Influenza A, and even the common cold (3). There can even be environmental triggers in PANS/PANDAS such as mold exposure, chemicals, or heavy metals. Source
PANS is similar to PANDAS in that its a condition that occurs when a child suddenly or over a short period of time develops severe neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), tic disorders, spitting, bed wetting, night terrors, stomach pain, reduced IQ, severe eating restrictions, to name a few. These symptoms can come on suddenly and may be severe, and they can significantly interfere with a child’s daily life. Children affected can lose the ability to do their school work, play sports, and participate in normal day-to-day activities.
PANS is thought to be triggered by an infection or other environmental factor that causes the immune system to mistakenly attack healthy cells in the body, particularly in the brain. The exact cause of PANS is not yet understood, and it is not clear why some children develop the condition while others do not.
There are several potential triggers for PANS, including:
- Infections: PANS is often triggered by an infection, such as strep throat, mononucleosis, or pneumonia.
- Environmental factors: Exposure to toxins or other environmental factors may also trigger PANS.
- Physical injury: In some cases, PANS may be triggered by a physical injury, such as a concussion.
- Other medical conditions: PANS may also be triggered by other medical conditions, such as autoimmune disorders or inflammation in the brain.
PANDAS is short for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections. It is a rare condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body, particularly in the brain. This can lead to a variety of symptoms, including sudden and severe changes in behavior, difficulty with movement and coordination, and difficulty with thinking and memory.
PANDAS usually develops in children between the ages of 3 and 12, although it can occur in younger or older children as well. It is thought to be triggered by a streptococcal infection, such as strep throat or scarlet fever.
In children with PANDAS, symptoms can come on very suddenly and may be severe. They may include:
- Sudden onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or tic disorders, such as Tourette’s syndrome
- Abrupt changes in behavior, including irritability, separation anxiety, and mood swings
- Decreased appetite and weight loss
- Difficulty with movement and coordination, such as tremors or difficulty with handwriting
- Difficulties with thinking and memory, such as problems with concentration or memory loss
Online Resources & Information for Parents
Use Caution With Dopaminergic Supplements in PANS/PANDAS
Mold as a trigger for PANS – One Families Story
ASPIRE: The Alliance to Solve PANS and Immune-Related Encephalopathies
Dr. Jaban Moore
Healthy Kids, Happy Kids
New England Pans/Pandas Association
Pandas Physicians Network – PPN
The Foundation for Children with Neuroimmune Disorders
PANDAS and PANS in School Settings by Patricia Rice Doran
A Heart For All Students
PANDAS & The Gut article
My Child Is Not Crazy Documentary (Language warning). Watch for free here.
Brain on Fire – Movie Based on True Story
Dr. Swedo PANDAS/PANS Standards of Care Summit
PANDAS and PANS with Dr. Jill Crista, ND
PANS and PANDAS with Dr. Anju Usman Singh, MD – “In this episode, you will learn about PANS and PANDAS and approaches for supporting children impacted by these conditions.”
Books for Parents:
–A Light in the Dark for PANDAS & PANS by Dr. Jill Crista
–Childhood Interrupted: The Complete Guide to PANDAS and PANS by Beth Alison Maloney
–Brain Under Attack: A Resource for Parents and Caregivers of Children with PANS, PANDAS and Autoimmune Encephalitis by Beth Lambert, Maria Rickert Hong, Roseann Capanna-Hodge, Jennifer Glustra-Kozek, Lauren Stone
–Brain On Fire My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
–The Parent’s Survival Guide to PANDAS/PANS: A Handbook to Manage Neuroimmune Disorders in Your Child Without Losing Your Mind
Books for Kids:
–What To Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck by Dawn Huebner, PhD
–In a Pickle Over PANDAS by Melanie S. Weiss
–What To Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner, PhD
Toxic Mold Studies of Interest
Mold inhalation causes innate immune activation, neural, cognitive and emotional dysfunction. 1
Individuals living or working in moldy buildings complain of a variety of health problems including pain, fatigue, increased anxiety, depression, and cognitive deficits. The ability of mold to cause such symptoms is controversial since no published research has examined the effects of controlled mold exposure on brain function or proposed a plausible mechanism of action. Patient symptoms following mold exposure are indistinguishable from those caused by innate immune activation following bacterial or viral exposure.
Mold exposure is clearly a problem. Floods, building and plumbing leaks result in widespread mold contamination. Our data document for the first time that exposure to known quantities of both toxic and nontoxic mold spores activated a central neural immune response with concomitant cognitive and emotional dysfunction. In addition, we identified a mechanism, innate immune activation, which aptly explains how mold exposure may cause such a diverse array of problems. The extent of the contribution of mold exposure to neural and behavioral dysfunction in humans under ecologically-relevant conditions remains to be determined. However, mold exposure, both toxic and nontoxic, must be considered another factor, like pesticide exposure or smoking, that can add to an individual’s burden of inflammation with possible serious consequences for health and behavior.
Microglial Location, Morphology oglial Location, Morphology, and Cognitiv , and Cognitive Performance in formance in Mold-Exposed Mice. 2
Mold inhalation, brain inflammation, and behavioral dysfunction. 3
Exposure to mold can cause neurological problems, increased anxiety and depression, and cognitive deficits. 3
Effects of Mycotoxins on Neuropsychiatric Symptoms and Immune Processes. 4
Exposure to molds is most commonly associated with allergies and asthma. However, it is now thought to be associated with many complex health problems, since some molds, especially Trichoderma, Fusarium and Stachybotrys spp, produce mycotoxins that are absorbed from the skin, airways, and intestinal lining. People exposed to molds and mycotoxins present with symptoms affecting multiple organs, including the lungs, musculoskeletal system, as well as the central and peripheral nervous systems. Furthermore, evidence has recently implicated exposure to mycotoxins in the pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorder. The effects of mycotoxins can be mediated via different pathways that include the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines, especially from mast cells.
Neurologic and neuropsychiatric syndrome features of mold and mycotoxin exposure. 5
Human exposure to molds, mycotoxins, and water-damaged buildings can cause neurologic and neuropsychiatric signs and symptoms. Many of these clinical features can partly mimic or be similar to classic neurologic disorders including pain syndromes, movement disorders, delirium, dementia, and disorders of balance and coordination.