How Dangerous Is Long-Term Exposure to Mold?

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Severe reactions to mold exposure may include shortness of breath, fever and lung infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reactions to mold are generally more severe in those who are susceptible to allergies or have chronic lung disease.

Mold itself is not toxic, but some molds produce mycotoxins, toxic allergens that increase symptoms in sensitive individuals, according to MedicineNet. Exposure to mold toxins has been linked to upper respiratory disease, asthma and lung infection. Allergic reactions are the most common reactions to mold and may cause runny nose, sneezing, skin rash, and watery or itchy eyes.

In susceptible individuals, exposure to mold may result in hypersensitivity pneumonitis, an inflammation of the lungs that causes fever, chills, body aches and shortness of breath, reports MedicineNet. The symptoms may subside shortly after exposure, but the condition may worsen over time. Chest X-rays may show abnormalities that assist in diagnosis.

Those with sensitivity to mold should avoid areas where it is likely to develop, such as wooded areas, compost piles, greenhouses and saunas, states the CDC. Interior mold can be reduced by keeping moisture levels as low as possible, and humidity levels can be maintained with the help of humidifiers or air conditioners. Interior mold should be reduced or removed by cleaning bathrooms and hard surfaces with soap, bleach and water. Carpets and rugs that have been soaked by water should be removed or replaced.