Damp is not only an unpleasant and unsightly problem in your home, but it can also have serious effects on your health. Damp can cause or worsen various medical conditions, such as respiratory infections, allergies, asthma, and skin problems. In this post, we will explain how damp affects your health, who is most at risk, and how you can prevent and treat damp in your home.
The most common type of damp in UK homes is condensation damp. This is caused by excess moisture in the air or on the surfaces of your home. If it is not treated or prevented, it will lead to the growth of mould, a type of fungus that produces spores, which are allergens, as well as several different toxins. Mould spores can irritate your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, and trigger allergic reactions or asthma attacks.
The conditions that lead to damp can also affect your immune system and increase the risk of infections by bacteria or viruses that thrive in moist environments.
Damp can affect your health in a few different ways including the following:
Damp can increase the likelihood of developing respiratory infections, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, or tuberculosis. These infections can cause symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest pain, fever, and difficulty breathing. In some cases, they can be life-threatening, especially for young children or elderly people.
The mould that grows in damp places can trigger allergic reactions, such as rhinitis, or conjunctivitis. These allergies can cause symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and skin rashes. In some cases, people living in damp conditions over longer periods can develop hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a rare lung condition caused by an allergic reaction to mould spores.
People who suffer with asthma can find that their condition is worse, and attacks are more frequent or severe if they live in a damp environment. Asthma is a chronic condition that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways, making it hard to breathe. Asthma attacks can cause symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. They can also be fatal if not treated promptly.
Damp can aggravate skin problems, such as eczema and dermatitis. These skin problems can cause symptoms such as itching, redness, swelling, cracking, or blistering of the skin. Over the longer term, if they are allowed to persist, secondary infections can occur.
The presence of damp in a home can affect anyone’s health, but some people are more sensitive or vulnerable than others. These include:
Babies and young children
Babies and very young children are more susceptible to the effects of damp because their immune systems are still developing, and their lungs are smaller and more delicate. They are also more likely to spend time indoors and play on the floor where mould spores may be present.
As people age, their immune system becomes less efficient. Older people with underlying health conditions may find that they are worsened if they live in damp homes, and this can cause serious infections to develop.
People with pre-existing health problems
Anyone with an underlying medical condition affecting their respiration such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will be more likely to suffer from the effects of damp and mould growth in a property.
The best way to protect your health from damp is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. You can do this by improving ventilation.
The most common cause of damp is condensation which occurs when the water vapour in humid air forms droplets on cold surfaces. As the moisture soaks into a wall or ceiling, it creates a damp patch where mould can grow. By reducing the amount of humidity in your home, you can stop condensation.
There are several things that you can do to lower humidity in your property. Avoid drying clothes indoors and ensure that you use lids when cooking. Make sure that you turn on the extractor fan when bathing and leave bathroom and kitchen doors closed when in use to prevent steam from escaping into other areas of your property.
Older extractor fans may not run as efficiently as newer models, as the fan and motor can degrade over time, so check that filters are, and fan blades are clean to maximise the airflow.
If you have discovered damp away from sources of moisture, whole house ventilation may be more appropriate for your property. A variety of systems are available including positive input ventilation (PIV) systems such as EnviroVent ATMOS. These work by drawing fresh air into your home at roof level and distributing it throughout the house to displace moisture laden air to prevent it condensing and creating damp.
If damp has not been dealt with correctly, and mould has grown on your walls or ceilings, it should be cleaned using a fungicide or dilute bleach. Cleaning mould is a temporary measure, as the mould will return if the underlying conditions that allowed it to grow are note dealt with.
If you are concerned about the risks of condensation damp or mould to your health and that of your loved ones, it is important to act quickly. Our local ventilation specialists can visit your home to carry out a free home survey. This will identify the sources of condensation in your property and uncover any pre-existing damp issues. Simply enter your postcode in the form below to find an expert in your area.
One of our local experts will contact you to learn more about your problems, offer free expert advice and make recommendations for a permanent solution.
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