20 February 2017

Got allergies? Mould in your home might be the problem

Mould can easily take over your home but the key to keeping it under control is limiting moisture in your home, specialists say.

Mould allergy symptoms peak in summer; as humidity rises, the fungi, which flourish in damp, warm conditions, grow on dead grass and leaves, straw and other plants.

If mould develops it must be removed.

Mould allergy

According to a Health24 article, moulds are parasitic or saprophytic microscopic fungi that have spores that float in the air like pollen. 

An allergic reaction to mould occurs after a sensitive person inhales mould spores that are airborne. While there are thousands of different moulds, only a few dozen species cause allergic reactions in sensitive people. The most common moulds that cause allergic reactions are:

  • Alternaria
  • Cladosporium (Hormodendrum)
  • Aspergillus, Penicillium
  • Helmin thosporium
  • Epicoccum
  • Fusarium
  • Mucor
  • Rhizopus
  • Aureobasidium (Pullularia)

Symptoms of mould allergies

Inhaling mould particles triggers a reaction in those who are allergic to mould.

“Mould spores can deposit on the lining of the nose and cause hay fever symptoms.

"They also can reach the lungs, which can cause asthma or another serious illness called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis,” says Angel Waldron, spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Common symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, cough, postnasal drip, watery eyes, skin rash, sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses), allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nose) and itchy eyes, nose and throat.

How to control mould 

Mould is an unwelcome house guest, but luckily there are various ways to bid the fungi farewell. The EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) suggests using water and detergent to remove mould from surfaces and drying the affected areas completely afterwards. If mould develops on absorbent materials, such as ceiling tiles, they may need to be replaced.

To prevent mould from returning, it's important to get rid of the water or leak that's causing it to grow. Indoor humidity or moisture must be reduced to no more than 60 percent. To do this, the EPA offers these tips:

  • Provide ventilation to the outside for clothes dryers, bathrooms and other areas that produce moisture.
  • Use air conditioners and dehumidifiers.
  • Use exhaust fans while cooking, washing dishes or cleaning.
  • If building materials or furnishings get wet, clean and dry within 48 hours.
  • Insulate cold surfaces, such as windows, exterior walls, roofs and floors to prevent condensation.

A Health24 article has further tips on how to remove mould from your home:

Keep it clean

  • Zap kitchen hot spots. Mould loves to hang out in trash cans, refrigerator door gaskets and drip pans. Use a cleaning product formulated to kill the fungi.
  • Don’t let laundry pile up. Damp laundry (in the machine or out) is the perfect spot for mould to grow.
  • Scrub your shower. Clean your shower with a solution of diluted beach at least once a month.
  • Tidy up the fridge. It may seem obvious, but make sure to throw out old food from your pantry and fridge as soon as it expires.

Clear the air

  • Get hip to HEPA. Be sure your central heating and air-conditioning is fitted with a high-efficiency particulate accumulator (HEPA) filter. HEPA filters can trap very small particles, including pollen and mould spores, and are sold online and at numerous home improvement stores.
  • Minimize moisture. Use a dehumidifier, especially in damp areas like the basement and the bathroom. Don’t forget to empty the water and clean the appliance regularly to prevent creating a breeding ground for mould.
  • Air out the shower. After hot showers and baths, run a fan or open a window. In bathrooms without windows, keep the door open when the room isn’t in use.

Target mould zones

  • Remove carpeting in the basement, laundry room and bathrooms.
  • Clear the walls. Wallpaper can trap mildew in the bathroom; a cheery shade of paint is a better bet. Look for mould- and mildew-resistant paint at the hardware store.
  • Let there be light. Since most mould grows in the dark, install a light on a timer in dark rooms like the basement or closets.
  • Store carefully. Don’t put newspaper, old books, clothes, bedding or other items in damp areas where mould will latch on.
  • Water with care. Mould loves potted soil, so don’t over-water household plants.

Read more:

How to fight a mould allergy

Clean home may reduce asthma attacks in kids

Is that mould in your home toxic?


Ask the Expert

Allergy expert

Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies.

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