Is Household Mold Worsening Your Asthma?

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:

Signs of Mold in Your 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
Mold growth. Mould spores thrive on moisture. Mold spores can quickly grow into colonies when exposed to water
Fevziie Ryman / Getty Images

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% which may require air conditioning or a dehumidifier.
  • Keep drip pans from appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners clean and dry.

Avoid mold if you have asthma

If you have asthma, exposure to mold creates serious health risks. If you notice mold in your home, do not attempt to take care of it yourself. Most serious mold problems should be mitigated by a professional.

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 sheetrock, 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 "airtight" 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.

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Article Sources
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  • 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