Mold and the Bronchiectasis/NTM Patient—A Lurking Health Danger

Posted on August 21, 2023   |   
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This blog post was authored by Katie Keating, RN, MS, and reviewed by the Bronchiectasis and NTM Content Review and Evaluation Committee.

What is mold? Mold is another term for fungus. Mold grows inside and outside your home in places such as decaying vegetation, leaves, and damp wood. Mold multiplies by creating spores that can grow into mold when exposed to damp surfaces.

Mold spores can cause allergic reactions or infections, especially in people with suppressed immune systems or lung disorders. These two groups are at the highest risk of developing health problems after breathing in mold.1

There are many types of molds. Some types of molds form colonies that can be seen with the naked eye, while others are only seen under a microscope. Outdoor mold peaks throughout summer and decreases following the first frost in cooler climates.

Causes: Mold allergy symptoms are triggered by a sensitive immune system. Your body senses the mold spores as invaders and develops antibodies to fight them. Bronchiectasis can result when the lung is injured from swelling or infection of the airways. Molds can be a common cause of non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis.2

Symptoms: Mold allergy symptoms can vary depending on the type of mold and the type of reaction you experience. If you inhale mold into your lungs, it can cause a condition called bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA). Symptoms of ABPA can include:

  • coughing,
  • wheezing,
  • shortness of breath
  • worsening of asthma symptoms.3

If ABPA becomes more serious, it can cause chest pain, cough, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, fever, and potentially life-threatening symptoms if it spreads past your lungs.3

Mold allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe. You can have year-round symptoms or seasonal symptoms. There is also a possibility of developing greater symptoms when the weather is damp or when you are in an area with higher mold counts. 1

Diagnosis: Your health care provider will review your symptoms and your medical history. A skin test can be done to identify the specific mold causing the reaction. Your doctor may also run a blood test to look for fungal spores or antibodies in your blood. Additional testing may be performed like x-rays, CT scans, or bronchoscopy.1

Treatment: Your health care provider may recommend treatment if you are experiencing mold allergy symptoms. Corticosteroid drugs often help open your airways. You may need to use them daily or only as needed. Sometimes your HCP will prescribe an antifungal medication.

Mold Removal: Professionals When there has been extensive water damage, mold removal (also known as remediation) may be needed. It is important to get outside help if you have respiratory issues or a known mold allergy.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) suggests that disinfecting wipes like Clorox wipes can handle cleaning up mold for up to 10 square feet. The problem is that an area of severe mold may only be a few square feet, but it is far from the end of contamination. Areas nearby may have more mold than the area originally cleaned.4


  • Remove sources of dampness in basements.
  • Use a dehumidifier in any indoor area that smells musty. Keep your humidity levels below 50%. Clean the dehumidifier collection canister and coils regularly.
  • Use an air conditioner, or central air conditioning with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
  • Change filters on your furnace and air conditioners regularly.
  • Use the bathroom fan during a shower or bath to dry the air immediately afterward. Open a window or door while you are bathing if you do not have a fan.
  • Do not use carpeting in bathrooms and basements.
  • Improve groundwater drainage away from your house by removing leaves and vegetation from around the foundation of your home.
  • Clean out gutters frequently.
  • Dispose of old books and newspapers since they easily become moldy.
  • Use plastic bins for storage, not cardboard boxes.1

A Personal Note: I had mold issues in my home after a flood in the basement. I experienced an exacerbation and continuously used a nebulizer and inhalers for an extended period of time. I was totally exhausted.

I began my investigation with a mold kit from Home Depot, which revealed high mold counts. I then hired a local mold remediation expert who did further testing, cleaned the entire basement with strong mold-killing chemicals, and sprayed the entire house with enzymes that lessen the growth of dangerous mold formation.

The mold removal process can be very expensive and regular costly reassessments are recommended. Prevention is far greater than dealing with the consequences. I recommend taking all the preventative measures listed above rather than waiting for something to happen and then dealing with it as mold can greatly impact your quality of life. When others are assisting you with cleaning mold at home, please make sure that you wear a protective mask and gloves, and eyewear. Stay out of your home during the remediation process if you are able to do so. Stay safe and free of mold reaction symptoms.


  1. Mold Allergy. Mayo Clinic. Date accessed July 1, 2023.
  2. Moss RB. Fungi in cystic fibrosis and non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis. Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2015;36(2):207-216. doi:10.1055/s-0035-1546750
  3. Bronchiectasis News Today. Bronchiectasis Study Suggests Mold Can Trigger the Condition in COPD Patients. Date published, September 05, 2017. Date accessed, July 5, 2023.
  4. Home Pittsburgh Area Mold & Environmental Testing, Inspection, and Consulting. Date accessed, July 5, 2023.