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The Connection Between Childhood Asthma and Mold: Case Study

Over 4.8 million children suffer from asthma in the United States. 1 Although there are many causes of asthma, one continues to gain more attention in the scientific literature: mold exposure. Rightfully so considering a tell-tale sign of mold exposure is respiratory distress. Infants and children are especially susceptible to the deleterious effects of mold.

Does this mean a significant contributing factor to childhood asthma could be mold? Absolutely. Let's take a deeper look at the relationship between the two by breaking down the basics and exploring a case study.

What Is Asthma?

According to the National Institutes of Health, asthma is a long-term condition that negatively affects the airways of the lungs.2 With asthma, an individual's airways become narrowed and inflamed. Many things can trigger asthma such as pollen, exercise, infections, and poor air quality.

As previously mentioned, asthma affects millions of children in the United States. It's the leading cause of chronic illness in this age group.3 Instead of spending time playing with friends, asthmatic children deal with debilitating symptoms and even miss school or other activities depending on the severity of their condition. Considering the emotional and physical toll that comes with childhood asthma, understanding potential root causes and triggers, such as mold, is essential to managing the condition and restoring a better quality of life.

Mold as a Cause of Childhood Asthma

You'll often read that allergies are a trigger for asthma. Besides pollen, mold is an insidious and often forgotten allergen. As many as one in five people have an allergy to mold.4

Inhalation of mold spores irritates respiratory passages and leads to a cascade of inflammatory immune responses. These inflammatory immune responses can culminate in an asthma attack. Mold exposure can occur outdoors or indoors. Mold growth in your home occurs as a result of water damage, structural abnormalities, the use of inappropriate or porous building materials, high indoor humidity, or other environmental conditions.

Symptoms of Mold-Induced Asthma in Children

Mold-induced asthma can involve symptoms such as:

  • Wheezing
  • Wheezing
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Throat irritation5

It can be difficult to decipher if a child's asthma is a result of mold exposure or other common allergens. Consider these questions: Did your child experience a sudden onset of symptoms? Did you or your child relocate to a new home recently? Is there potential water damage in the child's environment? Is your child also experiencing other symptoms of mold exposure?

Symptoms of mold exposure could include:

  • Red, watery, and itchy eyes
  • Fungal infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sneezing
  • Post nasal drip
  • Itchy throat

If your child is experiencing symptoms of both asthma and mold exposure, mold could be the main culprit. Let's take a look at what the research says about childhood-onset asthma and mold exposure.

Case Study Background

Understanding the potential causes of asthma is important to prevent the onset of the disease. A case study 6 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology analyzed different species of mold and their relationship to the onset of childhood asthma. Researchers also set out to group different mold species on an Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI) test based on how accurately they predict the development of childhood asthma.

Case Study Methods

The following sections specify the methods used to meet the objectives of the case study.

Study Population

Study subjects included 289 full-term infants born in Cincinnati, Ohio and northern Kentucky between 2001 and 2003. The requirements to participate in the study included the following:

  • At least one parent of the child must be defined as having allergic symptoms and a positive skin prick test result to at least one of fifteen aeroallergens
  • Study subjects had to have sufficient dust samples from the residence they spent their first year of life in
  • Study subjects had to have a follow-up clinical examination at seven years old to determine positive skin prick test results and a potential asthma diagnosis

On-Site Home Visit and Exposure Assessment

Researchers performed on-site visits to the child's home after turning one year old. Research teams collected information such as the characteristics of a home and dust samples. Based on the information collected, researchers then categorized the homes into three groups; no, low, or high mold. The homes were also categorized into two groups based on the presence or absence of water damage.

Analysis of Endotoxin and Allergens

Researchers analyzed dust samples for endotoxins using the Limulus Amoebocyte Lysate Assay. A mold-specific quantitative PCR analysis was also performed to determine the various species of mold present in the samples.

Based on the analyses of the dust samples for endotoxins and mold species, researchers associated childhood asthma onset with different predictors such as family factors, characteristics of the home, and other exposure variables. The analyses of the dust samples were also used to measure and then group mold species based on if they were found in the homes of non-asthmatic or asthmatic children.


The mean ERMI scores of the home dust samples were significantly higher in asthmatic children compared to non-asthmatic children. The risk of asthma for the patients at seven years old increased if the ERMI score from their place of residence at one year old was higher than safe levels.

Levels of the mold species Aspergillus niger, A. ochraceus, A. unguis, and P. variabile were significantly different between asthmatic and non-asthmatic groups. Across all analysis methods, the three mold species most predictive of the onset of childhood asthma included A. ochraceus, A. unguis, and P. variabile.


Previous research only linked mold exposure to asthmatic conditions. The case study discussed above took the research further and identified specific mold species associated with asthma development.

The three molds predictive of asthma development are more commonly found in water-damaged homes. This signifies these molds aren't just environmental allergens that have entered the house through open windows or being carried on clothes but are indicative of water damage. Overall, researchers concluded that infant exposure to specific mold species was significantly correlated with asthma development later in childhood.

The good news is, there are various ways to prevent and address mold-induced asthma.

How to Prevent Mold-Induced Asthma in Children

The best way to prevent mold-induced asthma in children is to create an indoor environment that is not conducive to mold growth.

How do you create an ideal indoor environment?

  • Keep indoor humidity levels as low as possible
  • Routinely dust surfaces using a damp cloth
  • Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter
  • Maintain proper ventilation in the home
  • Use exhaust fans when showering
  • Address water damage or leaking pipes
  • Use a dehumidifier if necessary
  • Seek professional mold remediations services at the first sign of mold

Treatment for Mold-Induced Asthma in Children

You should always consult your doctor or a healthcare professional if your child is experiencing mold-induced respiratory distress. Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, antihistamines, or decongestants to relieve symptoms. In addition to standard asthma treatment, you should consider deep cleaning your home to remove spores from surfaces and improve the air quality.

Choose Mold Act for Remediation

Aside from prevention and treatment, professional mold remediation services are essential to protecting yourself from mold damage. You must seek out licensed mold remediation experts, such as those at Mold Act, to ensure it's done correctly. Using an unqualified mold remediation service or attempting to rid of it yourself can lead to reinfestation or worsen the problem at hand.

You need remediation experts who've been in the industry for a long time. Mold Act has offered mold removal services since 2005 and holds certification from the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration. We understand the health risks associated with mold exposure and the damage it can cause to your property.

By using specialized equipment and licensed professionals, we can tackle any mold problem. We make sure to go above and beyond no matter the size or nature of the situation. Not only do we provide exemplary mold remediation services, but we also prevent current growth from spreading through proper containment techniques and then educate you on ways to prevent re-infestation. Our techniques for preventing current mold growth from spreading are especially important in the case of asthma.

Call Mold Act for Professional Remediation Services Today

If you suspect your child's asthma is a result of mold exposure, don't let current conditions worsen. The health of your family and property depend on it. If you need a professional mold remediation service, you'll find it here at Mold Act. Take action today by giving us a call at 877-660-0430 or filling out a contact form on our website.

Mold-Induced Coughing
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Contact us now to schedule your mold inspection
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