Although many things can cause moisture (and the formation of mold and mildew) in the home, the most common causes are damp basements, constant leaks, flooding and the use of humidifiers. Mildew is not always visible to the naked eye, and you can come into contact with it without realizing it by touching, breathing or eating it. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers mildew a serious health hazard.
The most common health problems caused by mildew are related to respiratory issues. Children and elderly persons are more sensitive to mildew, but the symptoms can show up in anyone who is exposed. Allergy-like symptoms such as runny nose and watery, itchy eyes are common. Some people may experience sneezing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Nasal congestion and coughing are also possible.
If these symptoms don't disappear after two weeks, you may be dealing with a mildew problem, rather than a case of the common cold. People who have asthma are particularly susceptible to respiratory complications when exposed to mildew over a prolonged period of time.
Anyone with a weak or compromised immune system may be susceptible to lung and respiratory infections after exposure to mildew. Risk of aspergillosis and aspergilloma, two types of lung infection, are especially possible in the elderly. Aspergillosis can lower white blood cell counts and can lead to organ failure, while aspergilloma can cause lung scarring.
Other Health Risks
While problems related to the respiratory system are more common, people exposed to mildew (or mold in general) can experience a series of other health problems. These include sensitivity to light, muscle aches, skin rashes, headaches and fatigue. In some people, exposure to mildew can also lead to difficulty concentrating and even mood changes.