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HomeHealth articlesmold-related illnessHow Does Mold Exposure Lead to Respiratory Emergencies?

Molds, Respiratory Emergencies, and Other Related Factors

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Exposure to mold can trigger many respiratory symptoms like shortness of breath, wheezing, etc. Read below for further information.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At November 15, 2023
Reviewed AtJanuary 16, 2024


Mold is defined as a fungal growth that forms and spreads on various kinds of decaying or damp organic matter. There are diverse varieties of mold species that are found in many different colors. Molds are sometimes also called mildew. Mold can be dangerous for individuals in their homes, other living space, and also many outdoor environments. It is stated to be a fungal growth, and mold has the potential to cause a range of respiratory emergencies if someone inhales its spores. When mold or mold spores are touched or inhaled, they may cause a person to become allergic to mold. Molds potentially trigger asthma symptoms, including shortness of breath, cough, or wheezing in people with known allergies. People who do not suffer from allergies can also become irritated. In some of the worst-case scenarios, asthma triggers lead to respiratory failure. Two to six percent of adults hospitalized for acute asthma developed respiratory failure and eventually needed mechanical ventilation. Various other respiratory conditions result from mold exposure and may need emergency medical intervention. Sometimes there can be mild symptoms like itchiness in the eyes and a runny nose. Mold produces spores that make it allergic to various people.

What Are Molds?

Molds can be called a natural part of the environment and are found almost anywhere moisture and oxygen are present. They are a part of the kingdom Fungi and are present in moist places such as soil, plants, and decaying or dead matter. Molds play an important part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter like dead leaves, trees, and other debris; however, mold growth should be avoided indoors. There are various types of mold, and all need water or moisture to grow. When moisture accumulates in excessive amounts inside or on the building materials, mold growth occurs, specifically if people are unaware of the moisture problem or do not address it. When mold spores fall on damp spots or surfaces, they begin growing indoors and survive on whatever they are growing on. Ultimately, the things on which molds grow get destroyed. Molds spread by producing tiny reproductive cells called spores that waft through the air. Mold spores usually cannot be seen with the naked eye and may need magnification, and they are naturally present in both inside spaces and outdoor air. A few varieties of molds have spores that can easily be disturbed and settle continually with each disturbance. Other molds have sticky spores that will cling to surfaces and are dislodged by brushing against them or by another direct contact. Spores can grow for years after they are produced.

Where Are The Molds Present?

Molds can be present anywhere inside or outside the living spaces, especially they are found in dampened places or places with moisture. They grow specifically in rainy weather when there are wet or damp places everywhere. Even when it is not the rainy season, the mold may grow if anything is damp for too long. Some places where mold can easily be found are mentioned in the following:

  • Woods.

  • Walls.

  • Foods.

  • Papers.

  • Clothes.

It can grow anywhere the moisture is present. Their presence almost everywhere produces risks, especially for children, elderly people, and those people with pre-existing respiratory illnesses. Respiratory emergencies mostly occur because of inhalation of molds.

What Are Respiratory Emergencies and Their Indications?

Abnormal factors present in certain pulmonary conditions may reduce gas exchange efficiency across the alveolar-capillary membrane. Abnormal factors include increased width of the space between the alveoli and blood vessels, filling of the alveoli with fluid, blood, or pus, and lack of perfusion of the pulmonary capillaries from the heart's right ventricle. Such abnormal factors create a respiratory emergency. Respiratory emergencies range from “shortness of breath,” or dyspnea, to total respiratory arrest, or apnea, where the patient stops breathing. Abnormal upper airway sounds, shortness of breath, faster or slower-than-normal breathing rates, poor chest rise and fall, these and other signs and symptoms of respiratory distress can be indications that the cells of the body are not receiving an adequate supply of oxygen, a condition called hypoxia. The healthcare provider may hear three basic kinds of abnormal breath sounds upon auscultation of the thorax; they can be early indicators of upcoming respiratory distress.

These types of abnormal sounds heard during a respiratory emergency are given below:

  • Wheezing: Wheezing has a high-pitched, whistling, and musical sound that is nicely heard initially on exhalation but can also be heard during inhalation in more severe cases. It indicates swelling and constriction of the inner lining of the bronchioles. Wheezing is generally heard in asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. It can also be heard in congestive heart failure, pneumonia, and other cases of bronchoconstriction.

  • Rhonchi: These are snoring or rattling noises heard during auscultation. They indicate obstruction of the larger conducting airways of the respiratory tract due to thick mucus secretions. Rhonchi are usually heard in chronic bronchitis, emphysema, aspiration, and pneumonia.

  • Crackles: They, also known as rales, are generally heard as bubbly or crackling sounds during inhalation. These sounds can be associated with fluid surrounding or filling the alveoli or very small bronchioles. The crackling sound is related to the alveoli and terminal bronchioles “popping” open with each inhalation. Crackles are an indication of pulmonary edema or pneumonia.

What Conditions Come Under Respiratory Emergencies?

Many conditions can cause a patient to encounter respiratory distress. Even though disease processes are different, the assessment and emergency care are the same. Given below are some of the conditions which may cause respiratory emergencies:

  • Emphysema.

  • Asthma.

  • Obstructive pulmonary disease.

  • Pulmonary embolism.

  • Pulmonary edema.

  • Cystic fibrosis.

  • Viral respiratory infections.

  • Poisonous exposures.

  • Chronic bronchitis.

  • Hyperventilation syndrome.

  • Pertussis.

  • Epiglottitis.

A few obstructive lung diseases mentioned above cause a block of airflow through the respiratory tract, leading to a decrease in gas exchange. The most extreme consequence of reduced airflow is hypoxia. The three most generally experienced obstructive pulmonary diseases are emphysema, asthma, and chronic bronchitis.


Molds produce spores which may generate allergic responses in many people. These allergic responses may cause respiratory distress and eventually lead to respiratory emergencies. Mold formation can be prevented by being alert and vigilant and calling the authorities when the first few signs of mold formation occur. To keep mold away from growing inside the living space, a person needs to control moisture and take steps to keep the humidity in the house at a lower level. It should be made sure that the house is properly ventilated. Any water leakage should be repaired immediately. If a person has severe reactions to spores, they should not clean the spaces on their own but rather take help from someone else to clean them.

Molds are not confined to indoor spaces but are also found outside. One must try to stay inside when molds are present in high amounts outside. One should try to wear a mask while going out when they suspect the presence of molds. One should try to keep their yard free of damp and decaying leaves or wood piles. The local mold counts should be checked to determine safe air quality. If any kind of respiratory emergency occurs, the person should be taken to the emergency room as soon as possible.

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)


respiratory fungal infectionmold-related illness
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