If you have asthma, you will know a lot of the things that can trigger your symptoms or make them worse. For some people, these can range from cold weather to high levels of dust or cigarette smoke. Many people also find that their asthma is worse during the hay fever season when there is more pollen in the air, but did you know that household mould can also be a major trigger for asthma that often goes unnoticed. As mould spreads it releases spores into the air, and when inhaled these can cause irritation in the airways that may provoke an asthma attack.
In your home there may be thousands of different mould species present. These can range from the white or green moulds that commonly grow on bread and fruit through to patches of black mould that grow on damp walls.
The black mould that grows in damp spaces such as bathroom ceilings or behind wardrobes is a common trigger for asthma because it grows in much bigger colonies than other moulds and as such releases more spores into the air.
Mould prefers to grow in damp conditions and is closely related to fungus. While a mould colony is usually visible as a dark moist looking patch on a wall, this is just the fruiting part of the growth. Most of the colony lies below the surface of the wall where it can break down and consume the plaster and use the dampness to help it grow.
Mould is spread by microscopic spores which can be carried by tiny currents in the air. The spores are present in small quantities in every breath you take, and most of the time, will simply move from one surface to another before they are cleaned away or consumed by creatures such as dust mites. However, if the mould spores land in a damper area where they are more likely to be undisturbed, they activate and start to grow very quickly.
Mould affects people with asthma in the same way as other triggers.
When spores are inhaled, they can irritate the airways which causes them to swell. This reduces the amount of space for air to pass through and makes breathing more difficult. The quantity of spores in the air will affect the severity of the response. Low concentrations of mould spores are always present in the air, but this is not normally sufficient to cause issues. It is only when the concentrations rise – as they can in a room with a lot of mould growth – that the body reacts in a more extreme way.
In addition to acting as a trigger for an asthma attack, the presence of mould in the air can lead to other respiratory problems such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis and allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. Both conditions create difficulty in breathing which is more dangerous for people with underlying asthma.
If members of your household suffer from asthma, removing and preventing mould should be a priority to protect their health.
The first step is to clean and dry any mouldy areas as soon as possible. Use a suitable mould remover product or a solution of bleach and water (one part bleach to three parts water). Wear gloves, masks, and goggles when dealing with mould to avoid exposure. If the mould covers more than one square metre or is caused by sewage or structural problems, get professional help to remove it.
Once the mould has been removed, dispose of any cleaning cloths you have used to prevent spreading mould elsewhere in your home and wash your clothes immediately to remove any spores. If the mould is in a bedroom or living area, you should also clean any bedding and soft furnishings to ensure that they do not contribute to future problems and are safe.
Cleaning mould only gets rid of the growth above the surface, so it can grow back over time if you don’t take action to prevent it. In properties where condensation is the main cause of the damp patches where mould grows, you will need to take steps to reduce the humidity. Ensure that you use pan lids when cooking and avoid drying clothes indoors. Ensure that you ventilate bathrooms properly when in use by turning on your extractor fan and keep the door to the bathroom closed when bathing to stop water vapour escaping into the rest of your home.
Good ventilation is the only way to prevent condensation and mould from recurring. Extractor fans in your bathroom and kitchen are essential and should be used correctly and regularly cleaned. If you find that mould and damp are present in other areas of your home such as the lounge or bedroom, you may want to consider whole house ventilation. Positive Input Ventilation Systems (PIV) such as EnviroVent ATMOS draw fresh air into your house from outside to replace the stale and humid air that causes condensation and mould to form. Filters on the intake reduce the presence of particulate matter including mould spores and pollen which further helps to reduce the risk of mould.
If you have discovered mould in your home and are concerned about the risk for family members with asthma, please contact us today. Our local ventilation specialists can visit your home and carry out a FREE home survey that will identify the causes of condensation as well as giving you advice about the best way to deal with them. Enter your postcode below to find an expert near you.
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