Mold lives inside and outside our homes and is a health hazard for many people. Mold, which actually is a type of fungi, has the ability to release millions of spores and mycotoxins that pose health risks. For many, mold exposure causes allergic reactions and minor symptoms like sinusitis, inflammation, and swelling in the nasal cavity. However, others can suffer from serious health effects when exposed to mold. The elderly, babies, children, and pregnant women are at most risk when a mold is present in a home.
Common Types of Indoor Mold
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state the four most common forms of indoor mold are:
Mold thrives in warm, humid conditions. After a flood or other water damage event (broken water pipe, washing machine overflow) mold can develop in as few as 24 to 48 hours. It also can develop in areas of the home where there is regular high humidity, like in a bathroom or laundry room that doesn’t have proper ventilation.
Health Effects of Mold Exposure
Mold spores are one of the most common allergens, reports the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). Indoor mold allergies can affect people year round with the spores entering the nose and causing symptoms similar to hay fever. A mold reaction may occur immediately after exposure or cause delayed symptoms that may worse the longer the exposure. The health effects of mold exposure include mild symptoms like eye, throat, and skin irritations plus nasal congestion, runny nose, chest congestion, and wheezing. However, anyone with a more serious mold allergy may experience difficulty breathing and even run a fever.
The Mayo Clinic lists four specific complications that can occur when someone suffers from a severe allergic reaction to mold:
- Mold-induced asthma
- Allergic fungal sinusitis
- Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (specific to people with asthma or cystic fibrosis)
- Hypersensitivity pneumonitis (a rare condition)
If you have any symptoms or any severity after being exposed to mold, contact your doctor.
How to Prevent Mold in the Home
The good news is you can prevent mold in your home. Any room with high humidity, like a bathroom or laundry room, must have adequate ventilation. When taking a shower or a bath, always run the fan to help reduce humidity levels. Other ways to prevent mold in the home:
- Use exhaust fans when cooking or in the laundry room
- Run an air conditioner to lower the home’s overall humidity level
- Use a dehumidifier, especially in the basement if circulation is poor
- Add insulation where needed to help prevent condensation, which adds moisture
- Thoroughly clean and dry any damp or wet items after a water damage event
- Fix any leaks that allow moisture or water in the home
How do you know if you have mold? You may notice a musty or mildew-y smell if mold is growing. Look the presence of mold along basement walls and behind drywall when there has been water damage. When in doubt, a specialty inspection not unlike the kind you get when buying a home can help pinpoint problem areas.
Professional Mold Remediation
Mold can grow on many different types of surfaces, from paper to cardboard, carpet, upholstery, and hard surfaces like ceilings and painted walls. A flooded bathroom may be cleaned and dried by a homeowner using a wet/dry vacuum, mop, and cleaning materials. Be sure to run fans and a dehumidifier to remove all moisture from the room. It also is beneficial to check underneath the flooring to make sure there is no water damage or moisture that can cause mold. Also, it is worth checking this guide on best air purifier for mold.
For larger jobs, professional help is recommended especially for clean up after a basement flood, water damage from fire-fighting efforts, or damage from an event like a river flood or hurricane. A professional team can come in with the right equipment and remove the water and moisture from the space as well as any furnishings or belongings that were affected. If mold already is present, a professional mold remediation team can remove the affected materials and complete a clean-up without exposing you or your family to the mold.