Limit breathing trouble with these tips
In February, a pipe froze and burst in the coat closet of my foyer. Though stopping the flow of water and repairing the pipe were important, everyone—from well-meaning friends to my boyfriend to the plumber and the insurance company—stressed how critical it was for me to halt any potential mold growth.
But you don’t need a foyer full of freezing water to have mold. The fungus can be found just about anywhere—on house siding, shower curtains or damp basements. It grows in almost any color, and loves warm, damp, humid places. As my dead-of-winter adventure proves, mold isn’t limited to summertime’s hot rays; it can sprout any time of year.
And if you’re exposed to it, you can develop breathing problems. Mold exposure has been linked to upper respiratory tract symptoms—coughing and wheezing—in healthy people, as well in people with asthma. The good news is that mold-induced breathing problems are usually temporary. Symptoms fade as your exposure to the fungus lessens.
Mold spores cause allergic reactions that can lead to breathing problems, infection, organ damage, mental impairment or, in rare cases, death. The most common problem is irritation and a burning sensation in your nose, mouth and throat. Spores can also cause burning and bleeding if they get lodged in the mucus membranes. People with severe mold allergies can experience shortness of breath, sore throat, nose bleeds, swelling of the lungs or fever.
Here’s how to minimize your exposure:
Use an air conditioner or humidifier to keep humidity levels below 50 percent at all times. Check the humidity level at least once a day because humidity changes with temperature shifts.
Make sure your home is ventilated adequately. If you have exhaust fans, use them.
Use paints fortified with mold inhibitors.
Use mold-killing bathroom cleaning products, such as bleach.
Don’t put carpet in bedrooms or bathrooms.
Remove or replace carpets and upholstery that have gotten soaked with water.
If you’re prone to breathing problems, avoid long stays in antique shops, greenhouses, saunas, farms, mills, construction sites, flower shops and summer cottages.