Signs of Breathing Mold Spores

Updated April 17, 2017

Mold, a type of fungus, reproduces by emitting microscopic spores into the air. Because mould requires moisture to grow, mould problems typically occur in damp areas such as basements or bathrooms. Mold growth may also occur after a flood or because of a leak. Inhaling mould spores causes a variety of health problems so it is necessary to remove mould from homes, schools and other buildings. Be aware that if you are sensitive to mould, you should be take precautions when cleaning mould.

Allergic Reactions and Irritation

Many people experience allergic reactions to mould spores, such as red, itchy or watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, stuffiness and skin rash. Severe allergic reactions may involve shortness of breath or fever. Some people also notice burning or irritation in their eyes, throat, nose, lungs and skin. Dead mould spores can still cause allergic reactions and irritation.

Asthma Attacks

Inhalation of mould spores can also trigger an asthma attack or worsen asthma symptoms, such as wheezing. If you have asthma, avoid areas that may be mouldy and do not try to clean up mould growth unless you are wearing personal protective equipment, such as a mask or respirator.

Mycotoxin Exposure

Some moulds produce mycotoxins, toxic substances that can be very dangerous. Inhaling mycotoxins may cause skin rashes, nausea, damage to the liver and central nervous system, mucous membrane irritation and immune system suppression. Many moulds do not produce mycotoxins or only produce them under certain conditions. However, because all moulds cause health problems, you should remove mould instead of just getting it tested. Ingesting mycotoxins is also very dangerous.

Risk Factors

Most people experience symptoms if they are exposed to a large quantity of mould spores, but some people are especially sensitive to mould spores. Pregnant women, infants, children, the elderly, immunocompromised patients and people with existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma, are more likely to experience health problems caused by mould.

Detecting Mold

Mold growth usually causes a musty, mildew-like smell. Mold may appear in a variety of colours and may look like spotted discolouration or fuzzy growth. If you can't find mould even though you smell it or feel its effects, you may have mould hidden inside walls, underneath wallpaper, in the roof or behind furniture. If you are sensitive to mould spores, do not risk exposing yourself to large amounts of spores. Instead, hire a professional to investigate hidden mould.

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About the Author

Rebekah Richards is a professional writer with work published in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "Brandeis University Law Journal" and online at She graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University with bachelor's degrees in creative writing, English/American literature and international studies. Richards earned a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University.