Knowing the Symptoms of Mold Exposure: Keeping your family safe
Sept. 21, 2017 at midnight
While cleaning up after the effects of Hurricane Harvey, homeowners want to be especially careful to get rid of any mold growing in their houses. Mold—that stubborn, unsightly black or brown patch of fungi that can pop up in the corners of your kitchen or shower—can grow prolifically in moist and damp weather conditions, or when exposed to water for long periods of time.
While there is always dust and spores in the air and on surfaces, patches of mold can develop in a home wherever there is pervasive moisture, including inside the walls, under carpets and even in the HVAC system. And mold is insidious; it can survive in harsh environments, grow undetected for long periods of time, and affect the structural integrity of surfaces and materials.
There are different kinds of molds common to indoor spaces, including Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus, Alternaria and Stachybotrys chartarum (commonly called “toxic” or black mold). However, while all molds produce toxins, none are, strictly speaking, poisonous. All molds should be treated as potentially hazardous to your family and should be removed to prevent potential health risks.
People exposed to mold show symptoms similar to respiratory infections including sneezing; coughing; runny or stuffy nose; itchy eyes, nose, and throat; watery eyes, and dry or scaly skin. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe, depending on the person. If you or someone in your family has tendencies toward severe environmental allergies or asthma, the symptoms may be more severe. People with asthma may experience tightness in the chest, wheezing, shortness of breath, or other asthma symptoms. In extreme instances, mold can lead to allergic fungal sinusitis or allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis in people with compromised immune systems. While you can treat mild symptoms with antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays, see a doctor if you experience any wheezing, extreme, or asthmatic symptoms.
Clearly, if you suspect mold in your house, you want to get rid of it as soon as you possibly can. When properly sanitizing your house, you’ll want to first get rid of any porous materials that are soaked, cannot be thoroughly dried, or may already be growing mold. Mold can grow in crevices and other airy spaces, so make sure to check drywall, ceiling tiles, and carpets to see if they need to be destroyed. For cleaning, you’ll want to use a solution known to kill mold. You can kill mold with a vinegar solution or a hydrogen peroxide solution, mixed with water. Remember not to mix household chemicals, particularly bleach and ammonia, and to protect yourself with a respirator. If you have a large patch of mold, you may want to hire a professional to remove it for you. You can consult the EPA website for more information on proper cleaning solutions.
Finally, even if you check all the visible surfaces in your home for mold, there may be hidden mold in the walls, the floor, or in other concealed areas. You may have an area of hidden mold if a part of your house smells moldy, even if you can’t see anything. Additionally, hidden mold may be present if you know there is water damage behind the walls or hidden under the floor, or if you or your family are experienced unexplained allergic symptoms. In those cases, you will want to consult with a professional to get a better sense of what’s going on in unseen areas.
Mold can be unsightly and dangerous, so remember that cleaning and drying your house thoroughly can avoid a lot of problems in the future. By thoroughly cleaning your house now, you’ll avoid more expensive problems down the line.