Molds produce irritating substances sensitive individuals may be allergic to. Some molds produce toxic substances known as mycotoxins, but mold itself is not poisonous or toxic. Mold may lead to symptoms in people, including adults and children, who are sensitive to molds.
Allergic reactions to mold are the most common health effects of mold. Mold that is growing and mold spores may lead to allergic reactions which may happen immediately or develop after a period of time following exposure.
Symptoms of mold allergy may include:
- runny nose
- eye redness
- skin irritation
In some nonallergic individuals, mold can irritate the eyes, skin, and airways. For example, the “black mold” Stachybotrys, along with some other types of mold, produces toxins known as mycotoxins that can cause irritation of the skin and airways in susceptible individuals.
Severe reactions may develop in some people due to exposure to mold. Symptoms of severe reactions, which are uncommon, include fever and difficulty breathing. People with compromised immune systems or those with chronic lung disease can develop serious infections of the lungs due to molds.
Nobody can predict the severity of the health risks associated with mold in the home. Allergic individuals risk varies and may depend upon the extent and exact type of mold that is present.
In 2004, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found evidence linking exposure to indoor mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough and wheezing in healthy people. Mold can worsen the symptoms of asthma in asthmatic people. Mold has been linked to the uncommon disease, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, in individuals susceptible to this immunologic condition. This is similar to pneumonia and can develop in susceptible people after exposure to mold.