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Black Mold Exposure Symptoms

Last updated May 6, 2023

As an experienced content producer and editor, James makes sure our content is always compelling, clear, and useful. He also leads the production team and makes sure our writers have everything they need to keep doing their best work. On his off days, you'll find him outside hiking or searching for stone circles.

Our verdict:

Black mold is a common yet potentially harmful fungus that most of us will face in our lifetime. However, it can also be a sign of a much more serious issue affecting the air quality of your home. 

Left unchecked, it can damage your home and trigger respiratory health risks.

A few of the most common symptoms are: 

  • Sneezing and having a runny nose
  • A scratchy sensation in your throat
  • Irritated and watery eyes
  • Coughing

In the middle of an infamous change-of-season clean and spotted a few patches of black mold on your wall? Stop! Before you reach for that damp cloth, pause and consider that you could be dealing with something requiring more effort.

It is unsightly and black mold makes your home less safe for everyone — especially those suffering from respiratory or immune disorders. As such, it’s essential to address the issue quickly so that it doesn’t compromise your health.

In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about black mold, including what it is, what symptoms to watch out for and how to remove and prevent it. 

🤔 What is Black Mold?

Nature is full of beneficial species of fungi and mold that assist in the decomposition of dead plants and animals. Despite their potential benefits, fungi can harm humans due to their numerous allergens.

Additionally, fungi are also known to produce toxic chemicals in their airborne spores. These are known as mycotoxins and can cause illnesses in animals and humans. One of the most harmful species is Stachybotrys chartarum, more commonly known as black mold. 

As the name implies, black mold often appears black but can look green or take on a dark brown hue. 

The conditions that allow fungi such as black mold to thrive include a high level of moisture or humidity, oxygen, a food source (such as your home’s drywall) and a mild temperature range of 40 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

As such, black mold will typically be found in damp areas of your home and areas subjected to high condensation levels, humidity, or poor ventilation. If a section of your house has been recently flooded, expect black mold to flourish there as well.

Symptoms of Black Mold Exposure

Mold, especially when left untreated, can cause noticeable symptoms that irritate the respiratory tract and other body parts, such as the eyes and nose.

Here are some of the symptoms of black mold exposure to watch out for:

❌ Sneezing and having a runny nose
❌ A scratchy sensation in your throat
❌ Irritated and watery eyes
❌ Coughing

Constant exposure to mold also increases your risk of developing an allergic reaction to it, so if you’re suddenly getting allergy attacks out of the blue you may want to check if your house has a mold issue.

Black Mold & Asthma Symptoms

For people suffering from preexisting respiratory problems such as asthma, mold can worsen their symptoms.

If someone in your household has asthma, check for the following symptoms:

❌ Noticeably labored breathing or wheezing
❌ A constricted sensation in their chest
❌ Shallow, ragged, or otherwise short breathing

Healthy People & Black Mold Symptoms

Generally, people with healthy immune systems don’t have to worry about mold.  However, if you’re living with someone who is immunocompromised or weak immune system, they’re at a higher risk of mold infection.

Symptoms of an infection due to black mold exposure include:

❌ Fever
❌ Coughing
❌ Chills
❌ Scabs
❌ Rapid or unexplained weight loss

Of course, it’s essential to rule out other possible causes or undiagnosed underlying conditions before concluding that mold is causing an illness, especially if there isn’t any substantial evidence of black mold thriving in your household.

However, if you’re sure that black mold is the cause, it’s essential to seek immediate medical attention and remove the fungi immediately.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Due to Black Mold

As it grows, mold produces carbon dioxide emissions, which can harm our health. Carbon monoxide poisoning is considered one of the major symptoms of mold exposure.  When you breathe in more carbon monoxide than oxygen, the poison turns your blood acidic, leading to complications as your body becomes starved of oxygen. 

Carbon monoxide poisoning due to black mold can result in:

❌ Respiratory issues, particularly in individuals with asthma or COPD 
❌ Neurological conditions such as confusion, memory loss and mood changes
❌ Fatigue and general drowsiness
❌ Lowered blood pressure and rapid or abnormal heart rate
❌ Nausea, fatigue and digestive issues
❌ Feelings of muscle weakness and general malaise

How to Remove Black Mold From Different Surfaces

Black mold is notoriously stubborn, but you don’t need to reach for complicated cleaners to eliminate it from your home. First, you must find and destroy the source of moisture feeding the mold. Without water, mold can’t grow. 

However, if you find the mold clinging to any soft furnishings or clothing you can’t dry out immediately, it’s best to bag them up before safely disposing of the contents.

Removing black mold from the walls

When removing mold from your walls, use an N-95 face mask to avoid breathing in potentially harmful mold spores, gloves and glasses without ventilation holes. 

How to do it: 

  1. Add ¾ cup of bleach to a gallon of water. 
  2. Apply the solution to the affected areas using a sponge or cloth
  3. Leave it on for five minutes 
  4. Scrub off and allow the surface to dry.

Additionally, consider using plastic sheets to cover the area to prevent spores from dispersing to other parts of your home. Although it may be tempting, don’t try to paint over the mold without removing it first, as this will only result in the coating peeling off. 

Removing black mold from wood surfaces

If your home has any wooden surfaces, it isn’t advisable to use bleach. Instead, reach for liquid detergent mixed with warm water and pour over the area. Should the mold remain, follow up with a treatment of white vinegar.

Removing black mold from the carpet

Unfortunately, porous materials such as carpets soak up moisture, making it difficult to remove black mold from them. If you want to salvage the carpet, isolate it first and brush off as much mold as possible before spraying bleach or vinegar. 

Read our guide with more tips on how to get mold out of a carpet. If the mold persists, call a professional cleaning service to prevent the mold from spreading to the rest of your home.

💡 Pro tip: Keep yourself safe when cleaning black mold.

Here are some safety pointers to remember:

✅ When using a bleach solution, don’t mix bleach with other household cleaners — especially those containing ammonia. Mixing bleach and ammonia creates a toxic, potentially life-endangering gas.

✅ Carefully read and follow instructions, especially when using bleach or other harsh cleaning products.

✅ Ensure you adequately ventilate the bleach areas by opening the doors and windows.

✅ Protect your skin and eyes by wearing rubber gloves and goggles.

How to Prevent Mold from Growing in Your Home

For something as pervasive as mold, prevention is often the best cure. Here are strategies to prevent mold growth:

1. Use a dehumidifier 

While they can’t kill mold, dehumidifiers are a low-cost and portable option designed to remove moisture and reduce humidity levels in your home to below 50%. 

Since mold relies on moisture to survive, maintaining a drier environment deters mold and mildew from growing. Similarly, make sure to fix any water leaks in your home immediately.

2. Promote ventilation

Further reduce indoor moisture and condensation levels by ensuring your home is well-ventilated. This can be done with something as simple as opening windows and doors for as little as 15 minutes. 

As a plus, proper ventilation will also help allow beneficial microorganisms to enter your home.

3. Limit carpeting 

Although a nice wool carpet may serve you well in a living area, you should think twice before carpeting your bathroom. Unlike other floor coverings, carpets are notorious for sucking moisture like sponges. 

If not properly dried, they become a haven for mold and mildew, damaging your home.  Also, ensure all floor mats are correctly and thoroughly dried.

4. Use an air purifier with HEPA filtration

Air purifiers are highly effective at eliminating mold spores by filtering them from the air and trapping them within the HEPA filter. 

💡 Pro tip: Check out our guide on the best air purifiers for mold on the market right now.

5. Employ an extractor fan

To prevent excess build-up in high moisture areas like your kitchen and bathroom, consider installing extractor fans. Not only do they expel moist air, but they also improve air quality by removing airborne pollutants.

Final Thoughts

A relatively common household issue, black mold poses significant health risks to you and your home. However, it doesn’t have to be the case! With the proper care and diligence, you can effectively prevent and treat black mold if and when it appears at your door. 

Timely intervention is critical to ensure the mold doesn’t spread and affect other parts of the household. Once the treatment has concluded, the next step is to stay vigilant and put the proper measures in place to prevent the mold from returning. With that, your home will remain happily mold-free.