Mold & mildew health risks

Updated February 21, 2017

Mold and mildew are environmental irritants that can multiply and spread throughout the body when inhaled through the eyes, nose or mouth. Mold and mildew pose health risks to people with pre-existing lung conditions, hypersensitivity disorders and to those with compromised immune systems, such as elderly individuals and infants.

Allergic Reactions

Mold and mildew spores disperse through the air, causing seasonal allergies and respiratory conditions when outdoor mould counts peak during spring and summer. Mold and mildew concentrations within a home produce year-round symptoms in hypersensitive people. As mould and mildew spores are inhaled, allergic reactions occur due to an inflammation caused by the body's histamine response to the irritant. Nasal passages and mucus membranes become swollen, creating symptoms of congestion, sneezing, runny nose, itchy and watery eyes and coughing.

Skin Problems

The circulation of mould and mildew through air allows for direct skin contact when spores land, causing irritating conditions that may last until an individual is no longer in contact with the irritant. Continued exposure can put a person at risk for developing ongoing hives, skin rashes and eczema, causing itching, swelling, visible, raised bumps and dry skin that is unsightly and uncomfortable. Persistent skin conditions due to mould and mildew can lead to bacterial and viral infections.

Asthma Complications

The inhalation of mould and mildew spores causes bronchial spasms in the lungs that can lead to wheezing, chronic coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and severe asthma attacks. Asthmatics are at risk of developing fungal infections within the lungs resulting from mould and mildew growth in cavities that have been damaged by the pre-existing condition of asthma. These infections can cause a fungal mass called aspergilloma to infiltrate the ears, lungs and sinuses, permanently deteriorating lung tissue and airways.

Neurological Effects

Fungal mould and mildew inhalants pose a risk to individuals in frequent contact with the irritants, particularly in those with pre-existing lung damage from diseases such as: asthma, emphysema, cancer, tuberculosis and cystic fibrosis. Mold and mildew may cause chronic respiratory and neurological health conditions that can worsen over time including: memory loss, chronic fatigue, debilitating migraines, mood changes, dementia, hearing loss, lung scarring, bleeding in the lungs and organ failure if fungal infections invade the blood stream.


Limiting contact with mould and mildew helps alleviate symptoms and reduces the risk of developing related conditions. Detecting and treating mould within a home or building through regular maintenance and repairs can prevent spores from accumulating and entering the body. Implementing the use of dehumidifiers and air purifiers will improve air quality for optimum health. Individuals experiencing symptoms may benefit from consultation with an immunologist so that antihistamines, inhalers, nebuliser treatments, fungal removal and anti-fungal medications can be prescribed.

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About the Author

Taylor DiVico is a professional songwriter, content writer, fiction novelist and poet with more than 15 years of experience. DiVico holds a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Rhode Island and an M.S. from Syracuse University.