What Happens if you Breathe in Mold & What to Do

Do you suspect mold is growing in your home or on your belongings?

Worried you might be breathing in mold & it might be dangerous to your health?

In this guide, you will learn:

  • The health effects of mold exposure & How much Mold Exposure is Harmful,
  • The Signs and Symptoms of what breathing in mold can do,
  • How to treat mold spores growing in your lungs.

What Happens if you Breathe in Mold?

Mold is commonly found both indoors and outdoors, and chances are that you breathe it in more often than you realize.

When mold spores make their way into your body, your immune system immediately tries to rid the body of the mold.

Physically, these symptoms could look like coughing or sneezing.

These symptoms could worsen, however, depending on the level of exposure and your sensitivity to mold.

Thankfully, these symptoms typically only last as long as you are exposed to the mold, or if the mold spores stick around in your body.

Everyone reacts differently to mold exposure, and there are several factors that come into play when gauging the severity.

1. Allergies and Sensitivities

If you are allergic to mold, then your immune system is already working overtime to rid the body of the invaders, or allergens.

In this case, breathing in mold spores can result in the typical, mild allergic reaction: sneezing and congestion.

These symptoms can arise directly after exposure or several hours later, depending on your body’s response.

2. The Amount of Mold

For the general population, a one-time exposure to a small amount of mold is not enough to cause a reaction.

For individuals who are sensitive to mold, however, mild to moderate symptoms can appear almost immediately.

Generally speaking, the larger the amount of mold you inhale the more likely you are to experience adverse health effects.

Similarly, larger amounts of mold can result in more immediate symptoms.

3. How Long You Were Exposed

The longer you are exposed to mold means the more amount of mold you will inhale.

This, in turn, means more severe symptoms that can arise quickly.

Conversely, if you were not exposed to mold for a long duration of time then your symptoms may not be serious or even noticeable.

4. How Close You Were to the Mold

If you directly handle mold or breathe deeply while surrounded by mold, especially while unprotected, you are more likely to experience severe symptoms.

Proximity to mold directly affects the severity of your body’s reaction to the mold.

How Much Mold Exposure is Harmful?

As mentioned, different amounts of exposure can lead to adverse health effects.

Take a look at short-term versus long-term mold exposure:

Short-term Mold Exposure

So, what happens if you breathe in mold spores, but it is only a one-off inhalation of a severe infestation?

Unfortunately, even short-term mold exposure can cause symptoms such as congestion, coughing, asthma flare-ups, and allergic reactions.

The good news is that most homes have some kind of mold present, so many individuals have an amount of tolerance.

A mild mold exposure presents symptoms and health effects that are not particularly serious.

Individuals who do not already have allergies and are exposed to a small amount of mold typically fall into this category.

Some other symptoms of mild mold exposure include:

  • Irritable eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Skin irritations
  • Wheezing

Chances are that if your exposure was limited, so will be the effects on your health.

Long-term Severe Mold Exposure

While underlying health conditions and mold sensitivity will play the largest role in determining how much mold exposure is harmful, the length and duration of exposure are other key factors.

The more amount of time you breathe in mold spores, the more likely it is that you will experience moderate to severe health effects.

Common symptoms of Long Term Mold Exposure include:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Allergic reaction

Additionally, those already at risk (especially young children) may experience the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Respiratory illness
  • Asthma flare-ups

The effects of mold manifest differently in every individual. The best way to know if breathing mold can hurt you is to gauge your symptoms along with pre-existing conditions.

Unfortunately, mold can silently grow and infest our homes, workplaces, and more without our even knowing.

In fact, mold can begin to grow within 24 hours and anywhere that is damp, dark, or poorly ventilated.

The good news for long-term mold exposure is that as soon as you remove yourself from the mold-ridden environment, your symptoms should begin to improve.

Who Is Most at Risk?

  • People with respiratory problems
  • People with existing allergies
  • People with compromised immune systems
  • Seniors
  • Children
  • Infants

The dangers of mold heavily depend on underlying health conditions and mold sensitivity or allergies.

There are some individuals in whom mold is dangerous to inhale, while others may experience no symptoms.

While there is no general guideline to gauge how much mold exposure is harmful, a key factor to consider is the level of exposure.

The Dangers of Constant Exposure to Mold

There are many dangers associated with constant exposure to mold.

For one, prolonged mold exposure can cause respiratory problems, including asthma and other respiratory infections.

Additionally, constant mold exposure is likely to increase mold sensitivity and allergic reactions.

Lastly, if the mold exposure comes from toxic molds, more serious illnesses may result.

More recent studies are showing that children who have prolonged mold exposure are more likely to develop asthma, especially if they are already genetically susceptible to it.

Can Mold Exposure Be Lethal?

If you are wondering, “can you die from breathing in mold?”, you are likely not alone. Mold exposure can be frightening.

It is important to know, however, that most mold exposure is rarely deadly.

Exposure to molds, even some toxic molds, is unlikely to be life-threatening.

Although exposure can present adverse health effects, it is most likely not lethal.

Suspecting Mold in your Home?

Call 844-994-1288 for a Risk Free estimate from a Licensed Mold Remediation Specialist in your area.

We Can Help Get rid of the Mold & Prevent it from returning.

Types of Molds and Their Health Effects

Understanding the different types of molds can help you understand not only their inherent health risks but also their potential danger to you.

Allergenic Molds:

These molds are not usually toxic or dangerous, especially if you do not have existing allergies. They can trigger asthma flare-ups and allergic reactions, which may lead to other health concerns.

Pathogenic Molds:

While slightly more concerning than allergenic molds, Pathogenic molds are not inherently dangerous or deadly.

These molds can, however, cause infections even in healthy individuals with no underlying health concerns. They can also slow down illness recovery time and worsen other symptoms.

Toxicity Molds:

Toxic molds produce mycotoxins and are the deadliest on this list. Exposure symptoms include difficulty breathing, extreme fatigue, and even mental health issues.

What about Black Mold?

At this point, many individuals may ask: what about black mold effects on lungs?

The short answer for these questions is simple: despite what many think, black mold is not lethal.

A large number of molds, including black mold, produce toxins; however, they are not likely to be lethal.

As with other molds, individuals who were already at risk may experience symptoms, such as the following:

  • Coughing
  • Dry skin
  • Trouble breathing
  • Irritated eyes
  • Congestion

Symptoms of Mold Exposure

How Can You Tell if Mold is Actually Making You Sick?

The easiest way is to understand the signs and symptoms of mold exposure.

Symptoms differ depending on a variety of conditions, so we’ve created an outline of mold exposure symptoms based on exposure type.

Symptoms of Short-Term Mold Exposure

  • Sinus congestion
  • Nasal irritation
  • Itchy, red, or watery eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Wheezing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Coughing
  • Sore or irritated throat
  • Sneezing
  • Nosebleeds
  • Rashes, hives, or other skin irritations
  • Headaches
  • Asthma flare-ups or attacks

It is important to remember that these symptoms may worsen with existing mold allergies or underlying health problems, even if you only had limited exposure.

Symptoms of Long-Term, Toxic Mold Exposure

  • Organ damage
  • Immune system suppression
  • Olfactory impairment
  • Cancer
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Joint pain or weakness
  • Sinusitis
  • Migraines
  • Brain lesions
  • Chronic fatigue or extreme exhaustion
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Hearing problems
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Shortened lifespan
  • Lung problems

How Long Does It Take for Symptoms to Develop from Breathing in Mold?

The answer to this question is, again, highly dependent on your personal health background and history.

Some individuals experience symptoms almost immediately. Other people never develop symptoms after mold exposure.

Can Mold Grow in Your Lungs?

Although mold is a type of fungus that is most likely to grow inside your home or outdoors, it is possible for mold to grow in your lungs.

Mold is reproduced by creating spores. These mold spores travel through the air, growing when they come in contact with moist surfaces.

Although we breathe in mold spores almost every day, these spores are not likely to cause health concerns.

There are various types of molds, however, that can grow in your lungs and present serious effects.


Aspergillus is a type of mold that causes an infection known as Aspergillosis.

In fact, it is the leading cause of death of invasive fungal infections in the United States.

Where is Aspergillus Found?

  • Soil
  • Plants
  • Rotting materials
  • Dust
  • Carpeting
  • Heating and air conditioning units
  • Certain foods

There are a few other types of molds that can invade your lungs and present health risks. Infections from these molds are known as non-Aspergillus infections.


These are the most common cause of non-Aspergillus mold infections.

They are present in soil and decaying organic matter.

Although it is not harmful to most individuals, those with previous health concerns or weakened immune systems may be at risk.


Although this looks similar to Aspergillus molds, they are not the same.

Hyalohyphomycetes are commonly found in soils, plants, and even water.

These molds are emerging as a common type of non-Aspergillus infection, especially in the United States and Europe.


This group of 100 fungi can be identified by their dark pigmentation.

Although these molds can cause serious infections, they are more likely to cause mild infections in individuals with previous health conditions or suppressed immune systems.

Symptoms of Mold in Your Lungs

There are three groups to consider when talking about symptoms of mold in your lungs: allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA), Aspergillus infections, and non-Aspergillus infections.

Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis (ABPA)

These symptoms can be similar to asthma attacks or flare-ups and are also known as asthma-like sickness.

These symptoms can last anywhere from weeks to months.

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Worsening asthma

Invasive Aspergillosis

This rapidly spreading, potentially life-threatening illness occurs when the Aspergillus fungus grows in your lungs.

Symptoms of this infection include:

  • Fever (this fever will not improve with antibiotics)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Pain with deep breathing
  • Dry cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Aspergilloma (a ball of fungus that forms in the lungs)

If the case of Aspergillosis is severe and invasive, where the infection may have spread to the brain, individuals may experience the following additional symptoms:

  • Sinus infection
  • Swollen eye
  • Nose bleeds
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Facial muscle paralysis
  • Ulcers inside the mouth
  • Ulcers inside the chest wall
  • Confusion
  • Seizures

Non-Aspergillus Infections

These symptoms often mirror their counterparts and can be mistaken for Aspergillosis.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Coughing up blood

How to Get Rid of Mold Spores in Your Lungs

The first step of ridding yourself of mold spores in your lungs is to clean your environment of any and all molds.

If you cannot accomplish this, limiting your exposure is also effective.

If you suspect mold spores in your lungs, the next step is to visit your doctor to assess the seriousness of infection and exposure.

From there, your physician can prescribe you treatment to help your symptoms.

For example, there are several types of medications that may help clean out your lungs. The most popular include:

  • Corticosteroids: these help to open up your airways and make coughing easier and more productive.
  • Itraconazole: this antifungal medication’s effectiveness is still debated, but often prescribed to rid the lungs of mold.

If you develop Aspergillosis, your treatment may be more aggressive.

Anti-fungal drugs may be prescribed for a short or long period of time, depending on the degree of your symptoms and severity of the infection.

How Long Does it Take for Mold to Get Out of Your System?

Again, the answer to this question is highly dependent on several factors: your level of exposure, health history, environment, type of mold, and degree of sensitivity.

Some individuals get better just weeks after removing the source of mold and immersing themselves in clean, mold-free environments.

Other people have reported it took over a year to fully recover.

A good way to gauge how long you will be battling mold in your system is how much mold has built up. The more mold that is in your body, the longer it will take to remove.

When to Seek Medical Help if you Breathed in Mold

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, especially if they persist and don’t respond to typical medications, it is best to visit your doctor.

Although mold exposure and the symptoms of mold exposure are not typically emergencies, they can lead to serious health problems if left untreated.

There are some cases where symptoms warrant an emergency.

If you experience the following, immediately go to the nearest emergency room:

  • Significant difficulty breathing
  • Asthma attacks that don’t respond to typical medication
  • A high-grade fever
  • Coughing up blood
  • Foamy, bloody discharge from the nose or mouth
  • Confusion or disorientation

When to Call a Professional for Mold Removal

Do you suspect there is mold growing inside your home?

Although there are several DIY methods for removing mold from homes and furniture, if you are already experiencing symptoms of mold then it might be best to call a professional for help.

Removing and cleaning mold yourself increases your exposure, which could also worsen your symptoms.


We have Mold Remediation Technicians that can help Find the Source of the Mold, Remove it & Prevent it from returning in your home.

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