Is Household Mold Worsening Your Asthma?

Identifiying and controlling household mold

House Mold. Photo © Joe Raedle/ Getty Images

Mold is a microscopic fungus that thrives in a damp dark environment that can worsen your asthma control. Mold can grow on any surface (e.g. food, indoor plants, walls, floors or fabric) given the right conditions:

  • Moisture
  • High humidity
  • Some form of nutrient

Mold is also a common indoor asthma trigger and reducing mold exposure may improve your asthma. Failing to do so can result in symptoms such as:

Why Would I Suspect Mold in My Home?

A number of factors may cause you to suspect mold in your home:

  • You see mold growing - white, orange, green or black growth in a moist area.
  • You smell a musty, mold odor.
  • You see a discoloration in a wall, ceiling or other parts of your home in an area with prior water damage that indicates mold damage.

Prevent Mold Growth in Your Home

Decreasing your mold exposure will require both the removal of mold and moisture control to be effective. There are a number of things you can do to prevent mold growth in your home:

  • Wash, disinfect, and then dry all surfaces.
  • Don't let water build up anywhere.
  • Repair any leaks and dry moisture that results from leaks both inside and outside your home.
  • Ventilate, preferably to the outside of your home with exhaust fans, the source of any moisture such as clothes dryers, stoves, and other appliances.
  • Put plastic over any dirt crawl spaces and make sure the crawl spaces are well ventilated.
  • Avoid too many indoor plants.
  • Keep relative humidity less than 50% - this may require air conditioning or a dehumidifier.
  • Keep drip pans from appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners clean and dry.

What to Do if You Find Mold Growth in Your Home

  • Figure out where the moisture is coming from and fix that problem first (remember you may not always see mold-- think mold if you enter a room and smell musty, stale air. Also, remember that mold could be hiding behind wallpaper or tile).
  • The most likely areas are those with high humidity and moisture such as the kitchen, bathroom, or basement.
  • Check any room with water as leaky pipes in walls are another great place for mold to accumulate.
  • Wash mold off the affected areas with detergent and water, clean the area, and then let dry completely.
  • Certain materials that hold moisture such as sheet rock, ceiling tiles and carpet may need to be replaced.
  • While you can easily clean a little mold off the bathroom area, you may want to consider a professional cleanup for anything over 10 square feet.
  • Make sure any areas you are working in are well ventilated or you may increase your acute exposure to molds.
  • Use an air conditioner during the most humid months.
  • Avoid carpet in areas like bathrooms.
  • Consider using paint that is "mold resistant".
  • While the trend in home building and remodeling is to make housing "air tight" in order to make them more energy efficient, older houses that "breathe" more are less likely to harbor mold.

Mold reduction is associated with significant improvements in asthma symptoms among patients sensitive to molds.

Want To Interact With Other Asthmatics or Parents of Asthmatics?

If so, join our private Facebook group. Joining our supportive community will allow you to ask questions, interact with other parents or members with asthma. You can get helpful information, tips and support that allows you to realize that you are not alone in dealing with asthma.

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Article Sources

  • Indoor Environmental Asthma Triggers. Environmental Protection Agency. 
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma