Protect Your Home (and Health) From Mold

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
June 19, 2020
Protect Your Home (and Health) From Mold

Do you sneeze, cough, wheeze and have a runny nose throughout the year? Maybe you chalked it up to a pollen allergy. But it’s possible the real culprit is mold. 

Mold is a year-round problem for homes -- whether it’s winter dampness, summer humidity, spring rain or autumn wind. But the worst time of the year spans from early spring to mid-autumn.

What is Mold?

Mold is a type of fungus (or organism) that helps breakdown organic material such as fallen leaves and dead trees. It produces microscopic spores (or seeds) that travel through the air. Weather conditions affect how quickly spores travel. Some spores spread faster in humid conditions, while others disperse when it’s dry and windy. 

Spores can enter a home via open doors and windows, ventilation systems and by attaching to apparel and pets. Once indoors, spores reproduce, enabling mold to flourish on fabrics, paper, wood, glass and plastic. 

Water damage is notorious for exacerbating mold growth but isn’t always involved in an overgrowth of mold. All that’s needed is a damp, warm environment, making basements, garages, attics and crawl spaces particularly vulnerable. 

You may not always see mold growing in your home, but you can smell it. Ever notice a musty odor? That’s probably mold.

Mold and Health

If you’re sensitive to mold, exposure to it can lead to hay fever-like allergies, aspergillosis, breathing difficulties and inflammatory conditions like bronchitis, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic alveolitis, chronic rhinosinusitis and allergic fungal sinusitis. There are 12 different types of mold that have been classified into three categories -- allergenic, pathogenic or toxigenic:

Allergenic mold inflames the respiratory system in about 25 percent of people, causing allergy and asthma symptoms. Most people are unaffected by allergenic mold in small quantities.

Pathogenic mold raises the risk of infections among people with weakened or compromised immune systems, babies and elderly adults.  

Toxigenic mold produces mycotoxins — poisonous chemicals that can cause illnesses if mold or mold spores are inhaled or ingested via the skin.  

Mold Removal

If you notice mold growing, bleach and other cleaning products from your local hardware store might be able to kill it. However, mold can be tricky, so you may want to call a mold removal specialist, especially if mold covers an area greater than 10 square feet.

How to Prevent Mold in Your Home

Preventing mold requires some effort. Try these tips:

  • Repair water damage as soon as possible.
  • Keep up with landscaping – cut your lawn regularly, rake dead leaves and clear shrubs from debris.
  • Use bleach and/or mold killer when cleaning bathrooms.
  • Use HEPA filters in air conditioner units and drain air conditioner lines.
  • Run your heat or air conditioning when the humidity is high.
  • Set up a dehumidifier in areas of your home that tend to be damp.

“If you know you have mold allergies, help lower the risk for symptoms by taking allergy medication before tending to your garden, going up into your attic or cleaning antiques and carpeting,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “Make sure you discuss environmental allergies, including mold allergies, with your physician.”

If you don’t have a doctor, consider partnering with an MDVIP-affiliated physician. MDVIP doctors have the time to work with you to help you develop a personalized wellness program that may include helping you control allergies. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health » 

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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