If you’ve ever dealt with a mold infestation, you might have had some concerns about the effects of mold exposure on your health. Perhaps you even wondered if you needed to take steps to purge mold’s effects from your body.
Mold is fairly common. According to 2016 research, anywhere from
Many people point to black mold as the key culprit of mold-induced maladies, from brain fog to autoimmune conditions. But a 2017 review suggests that little evidence supports this claim.
Plus, as the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)notes, mold color doesn’t always determine its toxicity. What most people consider black mold may actually be many different species, in fact.
Some molds growing indoors do produce toxic agents, called mycotoxins, under certain conditions, including:
These mycotoxins are more likely to affect people with mold allergies and respiratory conditions like asthma.
You’re more likely to find certain kinds of mold in your living space. But brief exposure to these molds rarely (if ever) makes it necessary to go on a detox. Even in cases of prolonged mold exposure, the idea of “detoxing” from mold remains up for debate.
Below, you’ll find details on mold toxicity and other possible health effects of mold, plus some guidance on when it’s time to get medical treatment.
The idea of mold toxicity is often misunderstood. Mold toxicity, in a nutshell, describes the effects prolonged exposure to mold and dampness may have on your body.
It’s not always easy to recognize symptoms related to mold, since mold exposure can mimic or overlap with other conditions. These include:
This overlap can also make getting a diagnosis for mold-related health problems a trickier process. What’s more, if you don’t know you’ve been exposed to toxic mold, you may not necessarily recognize symptoms of mold exposure when you experience them.
Some common symptoms of mold exposure or sensitivity include:
Sometimes mold exposure causes more severe symptoms, like breathing difficulties or fever. These symptoms tend to show up more commonly when:
- You’ve spent a long time around large amounts of mold.
- You have asthma, allergies, or another condition that leaves you more vulnerable to mold.
Exposure to mold can also worsen these underlying conditions. Or, in some rare cases, it can lead to pneumonia.
Your primary care doctor or another healthcare professional can help you rule out underlying conditions like asthma or viral infections. A doctor or clinician can also help pinpoint symptoms caused by mold exposure.
How to spot mold indoors
Knowing how to identify mold in indoor spaces is another important step toward ruling out causes of unexplained respiratory symptoms and taking steps to address them.
Key signs include:
- discoloration in damp, warm, and dark areas of your home, such as bathrooms, closets, laundry rooms, or kitchens
- mold growth in areas where water may pool up or condense, such as your bathroom ceiling, cupboards under sinks, and drywall near water sources
- staining that seeps out of a wall or keeps coming back when you try to clean it
If you have a compromised immune system or preexisting respiratory condition, you may have a higher chance of experiencing a mold-related health condition.
A 2015 review estimates that 3 to 10 percent of people have a higher sensitivity to the effects of mold. If you have mold sensitivity, you might show signs of an allergic reaction, including itching skin and a watery nose and eyes, when exposed.
Research emphasizes that it often proves challenging to distinguish between mold allergies and sensitivity to other common allergens, like dust, pollen, and pet dander. A healthcare professional may recommend a skin prick test to determine whether mold has triggered your allergic symptoms.
Limited 2016 research also suggests a tentative link between exposure to certain indoor factors, including dampness and mold, in the uterus or during infancy and increased allergies during childhood.
Asthma can cause episodes of wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. It
- air pollution
- strong scents
- cold weather
- viruses that affect the respiratory system
And even if mold doesn’t directly cause asthma, exposure to the types of mold likely to cause irritation can still trigger an asthma attack.
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that causes flu-like symptoms, chest pain, and trouble breathing. Its many causes include bacteria, viruses, and mold — often Aspergillus.
Research from 2021 highlights specific people who may have a greater chance of developing mold-induced pneumonia:
- people taking medications that suppress the immune system
- people with cancer receiving chemotherapy
- people who have received an organ or bone marrow transplant
Eczema involves dysfunction of your skin barrier, which can leave your skin more sensitive and reactive to allergens like mold. Mold may cause eczema by interfering with the skin barrier, making your skin more vulnerable to other pathogens and allergens that trigger eczema.
Although no scientific studies have found a direct link between toxic mold and behavioral symptoms, emerging research points to a potential link.
One 2020 animal study found that exposure to both toxic and nontoxic mold spores interfered with the production of neurons, or brain cells, in mice. This could contribute to issues like:
- memory loss
- slow reaction time
- difficulty processing emotions
- vision problems
In many cases, exposure to toxic mold doesn’t require medical treatment. If you experience cold-like symptoms after exposure to potentially toxic mold, these symptoms will likely fade on their own with no long-term effects once you remove yourself from the environment with the mold.
Generally speaking, your overall risk of long-term health effects related to mold exposure is fairly low. That said, experts still have more to learn about the possible health effects of mold exposure.
For this reason, it’s still important to avoid long-term exposure to potentially toxic mold and promptly address signs of mold in spaces you spend time in.
Reaching out to a healthcare professional may be a good option if you:
- have a compromised immune system due to another health condition
- have significant trouble breathing
- live with cystic fibrosis
As for a mold detox? Contrary to some beliefs, there’s typically no need to go on a cleanse or detox in order to heal your body after exposure to mold.
Here’s why: When functioning optimally, your body constantly detoxes itself — and it’s very efficient at this task.
Most experts agree that the best treatment for mold toxicity involves two main steps. First, you’ll want to remove yourself from environments with toxic mold. Then, you’ll want to take steps to get rid of any mold in your environment.
Other treatment options focus on easing symptoms of mold exposure rather than on removing it from your system. Unless you develop an infection, your body will likely take care of removing the mold on its own.
When it comes to managing the effects of mold, you have many options, including prescription options, over-the-counter (OTC) treatments, and natural remedies.
If you have a severe reaction to mycotoxins or live with a condition that makes you more vulnerable to toxic mold, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor to find the most effective treatment for your needs.
If you have mild allergic symptoms due to mold exposure, certain at-home treatments might help.
Using a nasal spray or taking an antihistamine could help reduce mild allergic symptoms and discomfort from mold exposure. You can find these medications at your local pharmacy or grocery store.
Some people recommend sweating, or using a sauna, to support the process of mold detoxification.
No research confirms that sweating can specifically help address the effects of mold. But a
This alternative treatment, also known as halotherapy, involves breathing salty air. People use this treatment to address many respiratory symptoms.
Some proponents of mold detoxes claim activated charcoal will bind to mycotoxins, allowing you to detox after exposure to toxic mold.
While doctors do use activated charcoal to treat cases of poisoning, no research currently backs up the claim that charcoal helps with the effects of mold exposure.
Still, a small amount likely won’t hurt, though you’ll always want to get guidance from a healthcare professional before trying it.
How to get rid of mold in your home
You can do this by:
- enlisting the help of a professional who can inspect your living area and identify mold growth
- removing moisture from the environment using a dehumidifier
- using fans and opening windows to air out areas that tend to get damp, like bathrooms
- replacing carpets, drywall, and insulation in your home if you can’t remove the mold
- using soap or a bleach solution to clean mold from nonporous surfaces like countertops and sinks
If you’ve been exposed to toxic mold, it might offer some relief to learn you probably don’t need to detox. Instead, getting away from the mold and taking steps to prevent further exposure typically offers a better line of defense.
Certain conditions like asthma or allergies can worsen the impact of some toxic molds. If you have severe symptoms you think might be caused by mold exposure, a good next step involves checking in with a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
Courtney Telloian is a writer with work published on Healthline, Psych Central, and Insider. Previously, she worked on the editorial teams of Psych Central and GoodTherapy. Her areas of interest include holistic approaches to health, especially women’s wellness, and topics centered around mental health.