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The Top Symptoms of Black Mold Exposure: What to Watch For

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The Top Symptoms of Black Mold Exposure: What to Watch For

Black mold, or Stachybotrys chartarum, commonly found in damp indoor environments, poses a significant health risk due to its production of mycotoxins. From damp corners, to in between walls or under the sink, black mold may be the cause of your health symptoms. Early recognition of these symptoms is crucial to prevent further health complications. 

Prompt action, such as professional remediationl, improving ventilation, and addressing water damage, is vital for mitigating the risks associated with black mold exposure and ensuring a safe indoor environment.

This article aims to raise awareness about black mold exposure symptoms, including respiratory issues, allergies, neurological symptoms, fatigue, and flu-like manifestations.


Understanding Black Mold and Its Habitat

Black mold is a type of fungi that thrives in damp, humid environments, especially buildings with previous water damage and poor ventilation. The most common indoor molds are Aspergillus, Penicillium, Stachybotrys, Cladosporium, and Alternaria.

Black mold grows in colonies and releases spores into the air, referred to as mycotoxins. Specifically, Stachybotrys produces a toxin known as trichothecenes. If you have inadequate detoxification or long-term exposure, mycotoxins can build up in the organs producing a wide array of symptoms (3).

Immediate Symptoms of Black Mold Exposure

Respiratory Issues 

While respiratory symptoms are common amongst the population, they may be a sign of underlying mold toxicity. In some cases, black mold exposure will trigger respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, sore throat, runny nose, and headaches. Stachybotrys has been shown to produce an inflammatory reaction in the lungs causing asthma responses and pulmonary hemorrhage (19).

Allergic Reactions 

When our immune system encounters toxins produced by Stachybotrys species, it can trigger a Type I hypersensitivity reaction, also known as an allergic reaction. This response is mediated by IgE and can cause allergic reactions to occur. It is common to experience runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and wheezing after immediate exposure. If prolonged exposure, more serious allergic reactions can manifest (13).

Skin Irritation 

Skin irritation or rashes from direct contact with mold are less common than allergic and respiratory reactions, but still occur. Skin rashes from mold can develop from direct contact or the result of an internal infection. Studies show that direct contact with mold produces dermatitis, skin itching, and irritation (13).

Long-Term Health Effects

Chronic Respiratory Conditions: 

Prolonged exposure to black mold can result in long-term stress on the lungs. Individuals with susceptibility may experience the development of chronic respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma.

For individuals with pre-existing asthma, exposure to mycotoxins released from black mold can irritate the airway and lungs causing unregulated inflammation and worsening of asthmatic symptoms.

A systemic review of patients diagnosed with asthma and COPD showed that the development of these chronic lung conditions was significantly related to the presence and level of mold in their workplace (10).

Immune System Suppression: 

Exposure to black mold and subsequent mycotoxins can make the host susceptible to immune system suppression resulting in increased susceptibility to infections. Contact with mold over a long period can induce immune hypersensitivity reactions and dysregulation of the immune system through a series of intracellular signaling pathways. As a result, the incidence of autoimmune disorders such as MS and inflammatory disorders such as IBD can occur (11).

When the immune system encounters mold, it activates specific receptors that initiate an inflammatory response, leading to uncontrolled inflammation and a compromised immune system (11).

Neurotoxic Effects: 

Research on the neurotoxic effects of mycotoxins, particularly those produced by black mold such as Stachybotrys chartarum, causes a range of adverse neurological effects including headaches, memory loss, and mood changes. Here's an overview of some key findings:

  • Cognitive impairments: Patients with mold exposure have been shown to have similar neuropsychological impairments similar to patients with mild traumatic brain injury. A study examined the cognitive functioning of individuals before and after mold exposure. The results showed that individuals exposed to black mold experienced a noticeable decline in cognitive performance (6)
  • Mood changes: Patients diagnosed with mycotoxin-induced illness report an increased likelihood of developing anxiety and depression. Researchers suggest that mycotoxin-induced illness contributes to mitochondrial dysfunction leading to a higher likelihood of mood disorders (1).  
  • Migraines/Headaches: Black mold is notorious for causing migraines and headaches. This occurs through mold spores causing activation of mast cells which triggers histamine and other inflammatory cells. The increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines results in migraines, headaches, brain fog, and chronic fatigue (12).
  • Other neurological symptoms: A group of patients diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and mycotoxin-induced illness also reported symptoms of peripheral neuropathy, orthostatic hypertension, fibromyalgia, and arthralgia (1).

Vulnerable Populations

While mold exposure is very common, not everyone develops mold toxicity and long-term side effects. Individuals more suspectable to mold include (2):

  • Immunocompromised individuals (HIV, cancer)
  • Pre-existing respiratory conditions (Asthma, COPD)
  • Individuals with pre-existing allergies
  • Individuals taking immunosuppressive drugs
  • Post organ transplant
  • Children and infants

Prevention and Remediation

There are several action steps you can take to prevent the growth of mold (2):

  • Stay Vigilant: Always be proactive in monitoring for signs of water damage and black mold development.
  • Educate Yourself: Learn about preventative measures to control black mold growth such as minimizing humidity levels, fixing leaks, and acquiring proper ventilation.
  • Control humidity levels by using a dehumidifier. It is recommended to keep humidity in the home around 30-50%.
  • Promptly fix any water leaks in the roof, windows, or pipes of the home
  • Ensure proper ventilation in bathrooms, laundry rooms, and cooking areas
  • Cleaning properly after flooding
  • Consider avoiding the use of carpet in bathrooms or basements that may have higher levels of moisture
  • Take Prompt Actions: If you notice symptoms such as runny nose, headaches, allergies, or mood changes upon changing environment, don't delay in investigating if black mold is the culprit.

If black mold has already grown in the carpet, insulation, drywall, or wallboard, the best avenue for removal is professional remediation. It is important to make sure the remediation company has training and credentials from a professional organization such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2).

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you are experiencing persistent or severe symptoms associated with black mold exposure, it’s essential to seek medical attention promptly. Individuals with weakened immune systems should take extra precautions. A trained functional medicine practitioner can help diagnose mold and mycotoxin-induced illness through specific urine testing.

Lab Testing to Evaluate Mold Exposure

These are two great options that practitioners can order to learn more about their patient's mold exposure:

Total Mycotoxin Panel by RealTime Laboratories

This test is designed to detect the presence of multiple mycotoxins in the body. RealTime Laboratories uses advanced techniques, such as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), to measure specific mycotoxins in urine samples. This panel typically tests for a wide range of mycotoxins, including those produced by Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Fusarium species, which are among the most common and harmful mycotoxins.

Why a Practitioner Would Order This Test:

A practitioner may order the Total Mycotoxin Panel when symptoms suggest mycotoxin exposure but the source or specific type of mycotoxin is unclear. This test helps to confirm exposure to mycotoxins and aids in the diagnosis of mycotoxin-related illnesses, which can be crucial for developing an effective treatment plan. It is particularly valuable in cases of suspected chronic exposure, as seen in water-damaged buildings.

Order the Total Mycotoxin Panel by RealTime Laboraties.

MycoTOX Profile by MosaicDX

Similar to the RealTime Laboratories panel, the MycoTOX Profile by MosaicDX also tests for a variety of mycotoxins in urine. This profile focuses on providing a comprehensive assessment of exposure to major mycotoxin groups, including ochratoxins, aflatoxins, and trichothecenes. MosaicDX uses mass spectrometry, a highly sensitive and accurate method, to detect and quantify these mycotoxins.

Why a Practitioner Would Order This Test:

The MycoTOX Profile is particularly useful for practitioners when they suspect that a patient’s symptoms are related to mold exposure, especially in environments with known contamination issues such as moldy homes or workplaces. Given the precision of the testing method, it can pinpoint specific mycotoxins, allowing for targeted interventions. This test is often utilized in integrative and functional medicine to explore the underlying causes of chronic, unexplained symptoms like gastrointestinal disturbances, mood fluctuations, and systemic inflammation.

Order the MycoTOX Profile by MosaicDX.


Key Takeaways

  • Black mold, also known as Stachybotrys chartarum, grows in damp indoor environments and produces mycotoxins that can cause damage to the body
  • Common symptoms of acute black mold exposure are runny nose, headache, sore throat, coughing, wheezing, suppressed immune function, and the onset of allergies
  • Chronic exposure to black mold can cause asthma, COPD, autoimmunity, cognitive impairments, and mood changes
  • It is vital to educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of black mold exposure and practice preventative strategies to control mold growth
  • Seek professional remediation companies if you believe your home has black mold exposure 
The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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Lab Tests in This Article

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6. Crago, B. R., Gray, M. R., Nelson, L. A., Davis, M., Arnold, L., & Thrasher, J. D. (2003). Psychological, Neuropsychological, and Electrocortical Effects of Mixed Mold Exposure. Archives of Environmental Health: An International Journal, 58(8), 452–463.

7. DeCesaris, L. (2023, December 12). Elevating Mood with Nutraceuticals: A Functional Medicine Perspective. Rupa Health.

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9. Henry, E. (2021, September 27). The Hidden Health Dangers Of Mycotoxins In Mold. Rupa Health.

10. Jaakkola, M. S., Lajunen, T. K., & Jaakkola, J. J. K. (2020). Indoor mold odor in the workplace increases the risk of Asthma-COPD Overlap Syndrome: a population-based incident case–control study. Clinical and Translational Allergy, 10(1).

11. Kraft, S., Buchenauer, L., & Polte, T. (2021). Mold, Mycotoxins and a Dysregulated Immune System: A Combination of Concern? International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 22(22), 12269.

12. Kritas, S. K., Gallenga, C. E., D Ovidio, C., Ronconi, G., Caraffa, A., Toniato, E., Lauritano, D., & Conti, P. (2018). Impact of mold on mast cell-cytokine immune response. Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents, 32(4), 763–768.

13. Kuhn, D. M., & Ghannoum, M. A. (2003). Indoor Mold, Toxigenic Fungi, and Stachybotrys chartarum: Infectious Disease Perspective. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, 16(1), 144–172.

14. Neilburg, K. (2023a, February 27). Integrative Medicine Treatment for Headaches. Rupa Health.

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20. Total Mycotoxin Panel by RealTime Laboratories. (n.d.). Rupa Health. Retrieved April 9, 2024, from

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