Hypersensitivity & Mold

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Pneumonitis &
Mold Exposure

Hypersensitivity pneumonitis, also known as HP, is a kind of lung inflammation that occurs in people who develop immune system sensitization (similar to an allergy) to inhaled organic dust. It can sometimes be mistaken for pneumonia, but it does not get better with antibiotics for infection.

HP has been referred to as Bird breeder's lung and Mushroom picker's disease in specific occupations with a risk of HP from biological dusts. HP has been documented in workers in buildings with mold and bacteria contaminated air-conditioners, and contaminated ductwork and filters. This lung disease can also occurred in people who work or spend time in water-damaged buildings with roof leaks, plumbing leaks, poorly draining condensation pans and high indoor relative humidity. HP may develop following either short-term or long-term exposure to molds.

Symptoms of HP can vary. Some people have shortness of breath, cough, muscle aches, chills, fever, night sweats and profound fatigue. These symptoms usually first appear 2 to 9 hours after exposure and last for 1 to 3 days. Other affected people may have progressive shortness of breath and cough, as well as weight loss. Work-relatedness may only become apparent over long holidays if symptoms resolve and then recur on a person's return to work. With continued exposure, the persistent lung inflammation of both kinds of symptoms can lead to scarring and permanent damage. The slow progression of symptoms and the persistence of symptoms away from work may result in delayed recognition of work-related lung disease by both workers and physicians.

HP is not contagious and is due to a person's immune system reaction to inhaled microorganisms, whether dead or alive. It is possible for workers to have both dampness-related HP and asthma at the same time. Additionally, workplaces that have workers with HP may also have workers with building-related asthma.