Mold exposure often involves spore inhalation, which brings these small particles to the lungs. Many people have asked: can mold cause pneumonia? Will mold exposure develop into severe pulmonary diseases? If yes, what are the strategies to cure and prevent it?
Mold exposure does cause problems in the pulmonary system, although we need to separate facts from misleading information. Here is everything you need to know about mold exposure and pneumonia.
Table of Contents
A. What is Fungal Pneumonia?
Fungal pneumonia is a type of lung infection, caused by inhaling spores in a long time. The spores may be a combination of opportunistic and endemic mold. A person might develop it after he or she inhales spores, but the infection can also develop if spores enter from bloodstreams.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that pneumonia from mold is rare, but not impossible. Hypersensitivity pneumonia is a severe continuation of mold exposure. It happens when the sufferer has a compromised immune system, causing him or her to develop symptoms. Unlike bacterial pneumonia, hypersensitivity pneumonia is hard to treat, because it does not respond to antibiotics.
The death of actress Brittany Murphy and her husband was probably one of the most famous instances of fungal pneumonia. Murphy’s mother claimed that mold exposure was responsible for the couple’s death from pneumonia.
B. Types of Fungal Infections with Pneumonia Risks
Doctors know diverse types of lung infections, but only several of them that can develop into fungal pneumonia. Some infections are endemic, while others are opportunistic.
1. Endemic Fungal Infections
Endemic fungal infections only occur in specific regions in the world. Unlike the opportunistic ones, endemic infections may attack healthy people too. Examples are:
Also known as “rose gardener’s disease,” sporotrichosis is caused by the infection from Sporothrix fungi. This fungus lives on crops and has spores that can get stuck to the skin, entering the blood through cuts. It usually causes skin condition, but if the spores are delivered to the lungs, the result is fatal. This disease is global but limited to farming communities.
Histoplasmosis is caused by Histoplasma fungi. This infection is common in river areas in South and Central Americas, especially areas with nitrogen-rich soil.
Blastomycosis is caused by Blastomycosis fungi, endemic to African Mediterranean and the southeastern parts of the US. The fungi grow on acidic soil near water and decaying wood.
Coccidioides fungi are responsible for fungal infection in healthy people and those with immune system deficiency. They are endemic to northern Mexico, Central and South Americas, and western parts of the US.
More hospitals and experts are starting to conduct a more cautious approach in diagnosis. It helps them to quickly notice the possibilities of specific fungal infection. Healthy people can heal quickly when diagnosed and treated early.
2. Opportunistic Fungal Infections
Unlike the endemic types, opportunistic fungi tend to attack people with a compromised immune system. Elderly and children, people with allergies and HIV, or those who undergo chemotherapy and organ donations are at risks.
Also called “San Joaquin fever,” this infection develops from a preexisting respiratory problem.
Aspergillosis is a common fungal infection, attacking people with asthma, allergies, and chronic lung problems.
Cryptococcosis is a fungal infection type that mostly affects people with HIV or AIDS. It also attacks people undergoing organ transplants.
Mucormycosis affects people with specific chronic illness or conditions, such as people with diabetes mellitus or those undergoing stem cell transplants.
PCP (Pneumocystis jirovecii Pneumonia) used to be classified as a parasitic disease, before getting new descriptions as a fungal infection. It affects people with HIV and AIDS, organ transplant patients, and those undergoing chemotherapies.
Mold does not directly cause pneumonia. However, pneumonia caused by mold may happen if the sufferer has immunodeficiency or existing lung conditions, which lead to fungal infections previously described.
C. Black Mold and Pneumonia
Many people have theorized that black mold is dangerous because of “mycotoxins.” Black mold presence in a property also presents clear health hazards. However, can black mold cause pneumonia if you get exposed to the spores?
Scientists have found that black mold’s reputation is exaggerating. The mold is not more dangerous than other mold types. They present similar health risks, especially toward people with a compromised immune system. A 2006 study by researchers at the University of Florida revealed that people with specific conditions could develop pneumonia from black mold exposures.
According to the study, the most fragile groups include children, organ transplant receivers, and chemotherapy patients. When they inhale spores, the spores can land in the sinuses, and continue entering the body through the bloodstream. If the immune system is weak, the body cannot fight against the invasion, and starts developing symptoms.
D. Diagnosing Fungal Pneumonia
Fungal pneumonia is hard to diagnose in its early stages. The early symptoms may mimic regular ailments, such as coughing, fever, shallow breathing, fatigue, appetite loss, sweating, and chills. Kids may experience nausea and vomiting.
Proper diagnosis usually involves several methods, such as:
- Checking the medical history
- Checking the prognosis of existing medical conditions
- Conducting radiology and clinical tests
- Using nonmolecular fungal samples
- Taking samples from respiratory tracts
When the pneumonia symptoms happen, patients and doctors can suggest checking for the presence of fungal infections. Detailed testing can help for faster diagnosis and quicker treatments.
Read also: How Do You Know You Have Mold exposure
E. Treating Fungal Pneumonia
Triazole and Fluchytosine are the most common fungal pneumonia medications, while Echinocandins is the new one. Patients with chronic illnesses may get IV-transferred medication such as AmB. Doctors will adjust treatments when they find fungal pneumonia symptoms in patients with chronic diseases or compromised immunity.
Healthy people can reduce the risks of developing fungal pneumonia by avoiding mold spores. Always check the house for mold signs, such as damp spots, dark specks, and musty smell. Fix leaks and plumbing problems immediately.
You can also reduce the risk of developing lung diseases by living healthily. Reduce or avoid smoking, and have disposable masks handy before entering a dusty environment. Vaccination also helps reducing risks of developing pneumonia.
The answer to “can mold cause pneumonia” is no, but it can lead to the risk. Mold does not directly cause pneumonia, but the spores can cause lung infections that lead to pneumonia. People with compromised immunity must get the most attention when developing the symptoms. Early diagnosis, vaccination, and prevention steps to reduce mold exposure are the best solutions for healthy people.