Objectives. We investigated the relation between respiratory symptoms and exposure to water-damaged homes and the effect of respirator use in posthurricane New Orleans, Louisiana. Methods. We randomly selected 600 residential sites and then interviewed 1 adult per site. We created an exposure variable, calculated upper respiratory symptom (URS) and lower respiratory symptom (LRS) scores, and defined exacerbation categories by the effect on symptoms of being inside water-damaged homes. We used multiple linear regression to model symptom scores (for all participants) and polytomous logistic regression to model exacerbation of symptoms when inside (for those participating in clean-up). Results. Of 553 participants (response rate=92%), 372 (68%) had participated in clean-up; 233 (63%) of these used a respirator. Respiratory symptom scores increased linearly with exposure (P<.05 for trend). Disposable-respirator use was associated with lower odds of exacerbation of moderate or severe symptoms inside water-damaged homes for URS (odds ratio (OR)=.51; 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.24, 1.09) and LRS (OR=0.33; 95% CI=0.13, 0.83). Conclusions. Respiratory symptoms were positively associated with exposure to water-damaged homes, including exposure limited to being inside without participating in clean-up. Respirator use had a protective effect and should be considered when inside water-damaged homes regardless of activities undertaken.