The Connection Between Pulmonary Hemorrhage in Infants and Mold Exposure: Case Study
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Connection Between Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis and Mold Exposure: Case Study

Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis (HP) is a serious condition that is caused by exposure to certain types of irritants. Mold is one of the primary sources of such an allergic reaction. Because hypersensitivity pneumonitis can lead to lung scarring and possibly life-threatening conditions, it's reassuring to know that if caught early enough, symptoms can be reversible.

This is why it's so important to understand the causes of hypersensitivity pneumonitis and its symptoms. Taking action can prevent a catastrophic condition from occurring. Read on to learn about the details of hypersensitivity pneumonitis and what a recent study found regarding its connection to mold exposure.

What is Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis (HP)?

Some allergies cause itchy eyes, others cause sinus pressure and sneezing. But one type of allergic reaction from what we breathe into our lungs can be deadly. The American Lung Association classifies Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis (HP) as an immune system disorder. When allergens such as mold, fungus or types of organic dust enter the lungs they cause an allergic reaction to occur. The body responds to these irritants and inflammation happens. Over time, this inflammatory response leads to scar tissue forming in the lungs.

Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is one type of interstitial lung disease, which is caused by inflammation and tissue damage. The Cleveland Clinic states that when hypersensitivity pneumonitis reaches this chronic state the damage can be irreversible. Life expectancy at this stage varies, but can be as short as three years for someone with severe lung damage. Patients with chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis are at a greater risk for heart failure. Although there are a number of treatments available when the condition is addressed early on, for some patients the only treatment option may be a lung transplant.

Can Mold Exposure Cause Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis?

Although there are upwards of 300-plus substances which can contribute to hypersensitivity pneumonitis, mold is one of the main causes. This is most often due to mold-growth caused by high humidity or water damage to buildings or homes. You may have heard terms like "sick building syndrome" or a "toxic house". Although these aren't official medical terms, they do relate to the correlation between mold, fungus and hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

Some of the types of mold that can cause hypersensitivity pneumonitis include Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cryptostroma, Penicillium, Pullularia, Rhodotorula, Stachybotrys chartarum, and Trichosporon. Although these types of mold may sound exotic, many are found in common household items when not properly maintained, left to rot or have been water damaged. Mold-induced Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis can be caused in multiple ways within the home or work environment. These include:

  • Mold contamination in air conditioners, heating ventilation, and humidifiers
  • Consistently damp environments where mold can thrive
  • Mold growth on organic farming material such as hay or grain (known as Farmer's Lung)

Mold spores are everywhere in the air. However, in certain environments where there is a concentration of mold, these spores can accumulate in a large volume. In high quantities, even people without an allergy to mold can develop symptoms. When spores accumulate in the lungs, they irritate the lining of these organs, causing the body to react in an attempt to protect the area. This reaction causes inflammation, which can then result in scar tissue forming and lung damage.

What Are the Symptoms of Mold-Induced Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis?

The earlier mold-induced hypersensitivity pneumonitis is detected, the sooner treatment can be started and steps can be taken to prevent further damage. That's why it's essential to understand the symptoms of hypersensitivity pneumonitis from mold exposure. Symptoms such as those listed below should be reported to a healthcare provider:

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Dry cough
  • Chest tightness
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Weight loss

After assessing your medical history and living conditions, further tests may include checking oxygen levels, lung function tests, blood tests and imaging, such as bronchoscopy. It's important to understand the two different types of hypersensitivity pneumonitis:

  • Acute Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis occurs quickly soon after exposure to irritating substances such as mold and fungi. Symptoms will occur within hours of exposure and typically happen in individuals who are allergic or especially sensitive to certain allergens like mold. Although this type of hypersensitivity pneumonitis is important to address, so that it does not become a more serious case, at this stage it is not life-threatening.
  • Chronic Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis is a long-term condition that develops over the course of months and years of exposure to mold and other irritants such as fungi and certain bacteria. This condition can progress to pulmonary fibrosis, a life-threatening condition which often requires a lung transplant for a patient to survive. It's important to understand that this type of exposure doesn't have to occur in the presence of large amounts of mold. Instead, small amounts over an extended period of time can cause this dangerous type of hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

Case Study: The Link Between Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis and Mold

In the past, hypersensitivity pneumonitis had been linked to hobbies and work that involved breathing in organic particles from animals, such as bird owners or farm workers. But in recent times another, more common element has been linked to hypersensitivity pneumonitis - mold. In the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology, Volume 17 published in 2007, the brief "Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis Caused by Domestic Exposure to Molds" was published citing examples of cases where common household occurrences of mold were determined to be the cause of acute cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

Background of the case study

The case study looked at two particular cases where mold was found to be the cause of both patients' acute hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Both patients were treated independently of the other and were given a combination of tests, including "clinical, radiological, physiological, and immunological studies."


This case study looks back at two cases where patients had unexplained symptoms such as dyspnea and cough. Numerous tests were conducted on the patients, including chest X-rays which revealed interstitial infiltrates, evidence of lung damage.


In the first case, a 40 year-old woman arrived in the ER with a cough lasting over ten days and a history of dyspnea. Since her condition improved while she was remaining in the hospital, she was discharged. However, her condition soon deteriorated once back at home. Further tests were conducted on the patient, including a bronchoalveolar lavage and transbronchial lung biopsy. The biopsy revealed interstitial pneumonitis and antibodies to the mold Aspergillus fumigatus were evident. This led to an investigation of her home which had water damage and mold growth of the same species as was found in her tests.

The second case was a similar scenario. A 39 year-old man sought medical care for symptoms which included "dyspnea, cough, fever, and weight loss". Similarly to the previous patient, his symptoms improved while in hospital, but returned once he was discharged home. Further testing revealed antibodies to A fumigatus. And like the previous patient, a water leakage was evident. Both patients showed signs of symptom improvement once they were relocated away from their residences.

Prevention of Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis Caused by Mold Exposure

Although Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis can be a scary condition, there is good news. Chronic Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis can be prevented by quickly and effectively addressing conditions which would allow mold to thrive and seeking professional mold remediation when there are signs of contamination. What are those signs? It's critical to know what evidence of mold infestation to be on the lookout for, both at home and anywhere else you frequently spend time like at work or a loved one's house. Here are some of the signs there may be dangerous mold in your environment which requires professional mold remediation:

A Mold Odor

We all know the musty smell of mildew. But did you know that when you smell this, it's not only unpleasant, but it could be downright dangerous? That smell often is an indicator that mold is growing somewhere in your home. So while you smell something strong, you may be breathing in dangerous mold which could cause inflammation and damage to your lungs.

Dark or Discolored Spots

Many people think mold is only dangerous if it's a certain color. But there's no way for an untrained person to accurately identify a mold without proper testing. It's a good idea to routinely do a check of your home, particularly in areas which are prone to moisture, such as the basement and bathroom. If you notice dark spots or white, fluffy growths, it's a good idea to have the area checked by a professional mold remediation company.

Water Damage

Flooding or leaks in a home can provide the ideal condition for mold growth to occur. While many times water damage seems like a simple issue to clean up, it's not resolved just because surface areas have dried. If water damage has occurred, there may be enough moisture to allow mold to silently grow unchecked within walls, gaps in a ceiling or in floorboards. You can check for moisture by looking for telltale signs such as cracked or peeling paint.

Areas that Collect Condensation

It's not just a natural disaster like flooding or disrepair, like a roof leak, which can allow moisture to encourage mold growth. Something as simple as the moisture-rich environment of an air conditioner unit or ventilation unit can harbor mold growth. Check any HVAC systems where hot and cold air or surfaces can mix, which can create a continuous source of condensation moisture to occur - making it the perfect breeding ground for mold.

Importance of Using Professional Mold Remediation Services

You might be wondering if you can take care of mold contamination on your own. Of course you don't need the help of a mold remediation company if you have a moldy shower curtain. An isolated instance of a small patch of mold such as this can be treated with a DIY solution of bleach-based shower cleaner. However, mold growth within the structure of your home is a whole other story. Here are some of the main reasons why it's important to call in the help of a professional, like Mold Act, to effectively remove mold from your environment:

  • You may not know what mold looks like: Our experts have been trained to detect mold. We have the equipment to detect areas that residents may easily overlook. You also may not be able to easily access some of the places mold grows undetected. Our Mold Act team can remediate these silent but dangerous areas.
  • Mold can hide in difficult to reach places: Basements, attics, crawlspaces and air ducts - those are just a few of the common places where mold can thrive.
  • There may be chronic issues that need to be addressed: An experienced mold remediation expert will offer suggestions on how to prevent mold from occuring again. This can include advice on basement waterproofing and identifying leaks and sources of water.

Prevent Dangerous Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis With the Help of Professional Mold Remediation

Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis is a lung condition which is caused when an allergen irritates the lining of the lungs, causing inflammation of the tissue. Over time, this can lead to chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which can be a life-threatening condition when scar tissue inhibits the lungs from taking in oxygen properly. As the above case study shows, mold exposure can be one of the main causes of hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Since mold can quickly grow in homes, this is a frightening correlation. However, mold treatment is available. Turn to the mold remediation experts at Mold Act. Our professionally trained mold removal experts know how to spot mold growth and effectively treat it. With the proper mold remediation, your family can be safe and you can prevent mold-induced hypersensitivity pneumonitis from permanently damaging your lungs.

The Connection Between Pulmonary Hemorrhage in Infants and Mold Exposure: Case Study
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