Mold Exposure Symptoms You Need to Know

Not everyone who lives in a home with a mold issue knows about it. Often, homeowners or renters don’t realize there’s a problem until they start suffering some of the symptoms of mold exposure. Unfortunately, sometimes those symptoms are so severe that they become life-threatening.

What are the complications of mold exposure?

Some complications of mold exposure include:

  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
  • Asthma
  • Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, a potentially fatal disease

What are the symptoms of mold exposure?

Before we begin, it’s important to understand that each of these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than mold exposure. If you’re experiencing more than one symptom and suspect a mold problem, however, don’t leave it to chance.

Address the issue as soon as possible by contacting a professional to check for mold. This way, you can stop mold from spreading and your symptoms from getting any worse.

So, how can you tell if you’re exposed to mold? Your nose knows what’s up, and may be able to clue you in on any potential problems…

1. A Stuffy or Runny Nose

This symptom usually occurs as a result of prolonged mold exposure.

What does it feel like?

It feels a lot like the cold. For example, you might start out with a runny nose that turns stuffy. However, if you’re living somewhere with a large amount of mold, the runny or stuffy nose often won’t go away when normal cold symptoms would. After all, you’re continually breathing in the mold.

Of course, if your home only has a mild problem, it’s possible that a runny or stuffy nose will resolve itself. But if the problem is severe, your symptoms are likely to stick around (and get worse).

Why does mold cause these symptoms?

The reason as to why mold causes stuffy and/or runny nose is similar to the reason why pollen season causes these same symptoms. In other words, like pollen, mold is a common allergen. So, it has the potential to cause typical allergic symptoms, such as runny or stuffy noses.

It’s important to note that this symptom might not appear alone. Just as seasonal allergies tend to cause a range of symptoms, a reaction to mold can as well, including the following…

2. Coughing

Any allergen can cause upper respiratory infections or symptoms of respiratory irritation; mold is no exception. It should therefore come as no surprise that coughing is a common reaction to mold, especially for those with heightened sensitivities.

Is it mold?

Only a professional can definitively answer that question. However, homes with mold problems typically cause persistent coughing. In some cases, the coughing may also worsen over time.

Why does mold cause coughing?

Mold can cause a few different kinds of coughs in a few different ways.

  • Mold may cause nasal stuffiness and dripping. These symptoms could trigger coughing.
  • When the body tries to expel large quantities of inhaled mold spores, it could result in a dry-sounding cough.
  • Severe reactions to mold—usually due to allergies or asthma—means this symptom may progress to a bronchitis-like cough. This cough may become productive, meaning that it brings up mucus from the bronchi.

As with many other mold exposure symptoms, coughing is likely to be worse if you have asthma, a severe mold allergy, or both. Unfortunately, the following symptom only makes getting some air that much harder…

3. Shortness of Breath

Any environmental irritant can cause shortness of breath or trouble breathing, and mold is no different. Those who are extra sensitive to mold or have COPD or other recurring respiratory issues might be more prone to this particular symptom.

What does this symptom feel like?

This symptom may present as a tightness in the chest. As a result, people may become dizzy or panicky.

Why does mold cause shortness of breath?

Mold can cause shortness of breath because it’s a common environmental irritant. In other words, breathing in large amounts of mold can irritate the respiratory system.

However, mold’s effects aren’t just limited to the respiratory system, as the next few symptoms show…

4. Skin Rashes or Itchiness

Many people are surprised to learn that mold may trigger skin problems. Despite how unusual these problems might seem, they are common symptoms of mold exposure in people with allergies.

What do these skin problems look and feel like?

When a rash is present, it may be:

  • Red
  • Slightly raised
  • Itchy
  • Recurrent

It’s also possible to experience skin irritation without a rash being present. This irritation may present as itchiness and dryness.

Why does mold irritate skin?

This symptom usually only happens in people who are allergic to mold. Specifically, it’s a reaction similar to contact dermatitis, which is when skin comes into contact with an allergen.

It’s especially important that people with this symptom (as well as other severe symptoms) don’t remove mold themselves. After all, being in close proximity to mold can aggravate these symptoms.

The following symptom of mold? It also might come as a surprise…

5. Itchy or Watery Eyes

This symptom feels like the itchy and watery eyes you might get during allergy season due to pollen.

What are some ways to treat this symptom?

For some short-term relief, taking an antihistamine might help. Ultimately, though, if it’s caused by mold, it’s unlikely to go away completely until the mold has been dealt with.

Why does mold affect the eyes?

Like many mold symptoms, itchy and watery eyes happen if you have an allergy to mold. Specifically, with an allergy, the body releases histamines, which can cause itchiness and watery eyes (among other allergy symptoms).

While itchy and watery eyes are mostly just annoying, the following sign of mold exposure needs to be taken seriously…

6. Fever

Getting a fever in response to mold exposure is fairly uncommon; it tends to develop in people with asthma or very severe mold sensitivity. That means if you have a fever along with other symptoms of exposure, it’s especially important to stay away from the mold source until professionals handle the situation.

If you don’t? It’s possible that your symptoms will quickly become worse.

Why does mold cause fever?

The process is similar to what happens when you have a virus or bacterial infection. In these cases, your immune system works hard to remove viral or bacterial particles. One of the body’s go-to methods for dealing with these foreign invaders? Fever.

Why, though?

Simply put, the body intuitively knows that certain infections cannot survive in high temperatures. Therefore, the body raises its own temperature in an attempt to kill the infection. We know this rise in heat as a fever.

While fever is an uncommon reaction to mold, that cannot be said of the following…

7. Sinusitis

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses, which are cavities in the face. When healthy, you won’t feel any pain or pressure in the sinuses.

Why does mold cause sinusitis?

However, if you’re exposed to certain bacteria, viruses, or allergens, sinuses can become irritated and inflamed.

This inflammation can increase mucus production, which is often responsible for the painful sensation of pressure you get with a sinus infection.

Will this symptom go away on its own?

Prolonged exposure to mold spores is more likely to result in this condition. Normally, if sinusitis is caused by bacteria or a virus, it will clear on its own. However, if mold exposure is severe and prolonged, it may be difficult for your body to clear the inflammation, meaning sinusitis can persist.

Unfortunately, persistent exposure to mold can result in the following tiring symptom…

8. Fatigue

Fatigue is more than simply feeling tired. It is a feeling of constant, body-aching exhaustion that persists even after getting plenty of rest. And, without plenty of rest, mental cognition tends to decline. So, people who are constantly fatigued tend to make poorer decisions and feel confused more often than normal.

Why does mold cause it?

When fatigue occurs as a symptom of mold exposure, it’s usually secondary to a respiratory infection. In other words, the fatigue is not a direct result of the mold but rather the infections or other symptoms caused by the mold.

Why, though? Simply put, it’s because your body expends a lot of energy fighting the presence of mold spores. When this process occurs, the following symptom may also develop…

9. Headaches

Just like fatigue, headaches on their own aren’t usually indicative of mold exposure. However, if you experience them and other symptoms on the list, your headaches may well be the result of mold exposure.

What does this type of headache feel like?

The exact type of headache you experience may vary, as different headaches can be triggered by different side effects of mold exposure.

Why does mold cause headaches?

Mold exposure headaches are usually secondary to other mold symptoms. In other words, it’s likely that other side effects of mold exposure cause headaches.

  • Coughing. Repeated coughing can cause bothersome headaches.
  • Fatigue or Poor Sleep. As mentioned above, mold exposure can cause fatigue, which often comes with headaches as a related symptom. In some cases, the respiratory issues caused by mold can result in trouble sleeping, which also contributes to headaches.
  • Sinusitis. If you’ve ever had a sinus infection, you know just the sort of painful, full-face headache this condition can cause. If your headache and facial pain worsens when bending forward, there’s a good chance your headache is caused by sinusitis.

A severe sign of mold exposure?

The following is a severe complication that can occur in those with weakened immune systems…

10. Fungal Infections

Many previous symptoms result from the body’s attempt to fight the invasion of mold spores. While the symptoms themselves can cause significant disruptions in daily life, they are still signs that the body is effectively fighting back against infection.

In some cases, though, mold exposure can overpower the immune system and result in serious fungal infections.

Who is at risk?

Fungal infections usually only develop in people who have suppressed immune systems, like those who have cancer or HIV. However, if you are in generally poor health, your immune system also may be overtaxed in general, which can result in fungal infections as well.

Why does mold exposure cause fungal infections?

The body usually fights off inhaled fungal and mold spores before they can cause a widespread infection. But for people with compromised immune systems, an infection may result. This type of symptom is very severe, which means it requires immediate medical attention.

What’s next?

What should someone who thinks they’ve been exposed to mold do?…

Seek Professional Help Right Away

While mold exposure poses a health risk to everyone, exposure symptoms are likely to be much worse in those with asthma, mold allergies, and compromised immune systems.

Leave it to the pros.

If you notice the symptoms above (and if they last longer than a typical illness would), it’s wise to contact a mold remediation professional. Qualified professionals can test home air quality to identify any mold species present. If any mold is detected, these professionals can then work to remove any mold and take steps to prevent it from coming back.

It’s almost never a good idea to clean up mold on your own. This action can not only worsen symptoms, but—because you aren’t trained to do so—you may not actually remove all of the mold. That means the mold can grow back and continue causing problems.

Deal with mold promptly.

By dealing with mold issues promptly, you’ll be able to keep your home’s air healthy and return to good health yourself.

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