What to know about mold in the lungs

Breathing mold into the lungs, especially for a long period of time, may trigger allergic reactions and worsen symptoms of asthma and other respiratory conditions.

Some types of mold may cause aspergillosis, which is a group of lung infections that occur when a person inhales fungi from the Aspergillus genus.

People who live in damp environments are at a higher risk of mold-related illnesses, even when there is no visible mold. These environments also tend to attract other organisms that may affect a person’s health, including cockroaches, dust mites, viruses, and bacteria.

Removing mold and moisture from the home can help mitigate these risks. In some cases, mold may require professional mitigation and removal.

This article discusses types of mold that can affect a person’s lungs. It also explores the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mold in the lungs.

What types of mold may affect the lungs?

Many types of mold can affect the lungs. Additionally, the environments that allow mold to grow (those that are damp and moist) may be harmful to the lungs, even in the absence of mold.

One of the risks to lung health comes from members of the Aspergillus genus of fungi. The spores of the fungi can enter a person’s lungs and cause an infection that doctors call aspergillosis. Some forms of this fungi that may affect the lungs include:

  • A. terreus
  • A. flavus
  • A. fumigatus
  • A. niger

Aspergillus molds can cause lung and sinus infections that range from mild to severe. Immunocompromised individuals and people with underlying lung diseases are more vulnerable to severe infections.

Outside of Aspergillus molds, any type of mold may irritate the lungs and respiratory system when a person experiences chronic exposure to the organism or if they are allergic to it. Some potential effects include:

  • worsening symptoms of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • nasal congestion
  • sneezing
  • irritation in the throat
  • coughing