Protecting your home and health from mold and mildew

mold in the house

Your home is your sanctuary and like anything you value, your natural instinct is to protect it. Likely you take necessary precautions to protect your home from theft or natural disasters. You know that keeping your home safe should always be a top priority. But are you taking those same necessary steps protecting your home from mold and mildew, biohazards that can cause many health issues for you and your family?

No one likes the thought of having mold in their home.  Yet many homes have mold growing in places they’d rather not think about – shower curtains, house siding, or maybe basement walls.

Mold can grow in any color and thrives in damp, warm, humid places, sprouting up year-round. While it can be unsightly and disturbing to know it may be sharing your house with you, the main problem with mold is if you’re exposed to it, you and your family could develop breathing problems, from mild to severe.

If the mold is a fungus that reproduces through spores, it can be responsible for breathing problems in almost anyone.  Upper respiratory tract symptoms – coughing and wheezing – in otherwise healthy people, could be linked to mold. Research has suggested that the development of asthma in children, could have a potential link to early mold exposure. However, mold-induced breathing problems are generally temporary with symptoms fading with less exposure to the fungus.

Why does mold cause health problems?

Mold spores can produce a chemical called mycotoxins which can cause allergic reactions leading to infection, hypersensitivity disorders, breathing problems, organ damage, mental impairment, or even death in rare cases.

When these spores are introduced to the body, the spores irritate and created a burning sensation in the nose, mouth, and throat. The mold spores can also cause burning and bleeding if they become lodged in the mucus membrane such as in the sinus and lungs.

Symptoms associated with mold exposure

Symptoms of mold exposure can vary from person to person from being mild to severe. Those at greatest risk of developing health problems are children, older adults, and immune-compromised individuals.

Symptoms can include:

  • Sore throat
  • Bleeding gums
  • Runny, itchy, or stuffy nose
  • Nose bleeds
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing, coughing, swelling of the lungs
  • Bleeding into the lungs

Some people who are exposed to mold may develop a rare inflammatory lung disease called hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This disease can be caused by mold exposure with symptoms that include cough, difficulty breathing, and fever.

How to minimize your risk

The first thing to remember is that mold grows best in warm, damp, humid places.  When outdoors, you will likely find mold in shady, damp areas or where leaves or other vegetation are breaking down. Indoors, mold grows in high-humidity locations such as basements and showers.

Anyone prone to breathing problems should consider avoiding long stays in antique shops, greenhouses, saunas, farms, mills, construction areas, flower shops, and summer cottages.

Other ways to minimize your exposure to mold, include the following:

  • Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to keep humidity levels below 50 percent at all times and check the humidity level at least once a day as humidity changes with temperature shifts.
  • Be sure your home is adequately ventilated and if you have exhaust fans, use them.
  • Use paints fortified with mold inhibitors.
  • Use mold-killing bathroom cleaning products, such as bleach.
  • Don’t carpet bedrooms or bathrooms
  • Remove or replace carpets and upholstery that have gotten soaked through

Seeking help from your doctor

If you or anyone in your family is exhibiting symptoms of possible mold exposure, especially if you already know a mold and mildew problem exists in your home, speak to your doctor right away. Be prepared when you go to the visit to know where the mold is located within your home and how long it has been there.

The more you can describe your symptoms and how frequently they are occurring, this will help your doctor obtain a more accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

In the meantime, if you have discovered mold within your home, take action now to rectify the situation. If you are renting a home or apartment, contact the owner to discuss how to resolve the issue. If you own your home, seek advice from a reputable company that deals with mold and mildew removal and ask for referrals from customers who have used them in the past before signing any contracts.

You and your family’s health depend on breathing mold and mildew-free air and living in an environment free of these harmful fungi.

Protecting your home and health from mold and mildew
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Dr. David Samadi

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Dr. David Samadi