One of the unfortunate aspects of living in southern Florida is the near-constant exposure to high humidity and warmer temperatures. These conditions become even more pronounced following tropical storms and hurricanes, and unfortunately they are ideal breeding ground for mold.
Therefore, this is the time of year that your Jupiter concierge family practice doctors at MD 2.0, want to help you to find signs of mold growing in your home.
Despite the frenzied headlines and warnings about “toxic mold” a few years ago, however, there is usually no cause to panic at the sight of the telltale spores within the home. While some sensitive people’s reactions to household mold can be unpleasant, it rarely results in serious side effects.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that;
“[t]he term ‘toxic mold’ is not accurate. While certain molds are toxigenic, meaning they can produce toxins (specifically mycotoxins), the molds themselves are not toxic, or poisonous.”
In those who are allergic to mycotoxins, the symptoms are largely confined to respiratory issues, including wheezing, red or itchy eyes, or sniffling and sneezing. Those with chronic respiratory illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) or asthma may have difficulty breathing in homes with mold, and some mold can trigger asthma attacks. Also, people who have suppressed immune systems may be at greater risk of infections from mold.
Some studies have linked mold with increased health risks. According to the CDC, in 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, coughing, and wheezing in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and, with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that condition. The IOM also found limited evidence linking indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children.
Other recent studies have suggested a potential link of early mold exposure to development of asthma in some children, particularly among children who may be genetically susceptible to asthma development, but the CDC suggests that more research is needed to confirm these findings.
Although humans are exposed to mold spores every day, both indoors and outdoors, it’s only when they find a hospitable surface such as damp area in the home that they begin to multiply in such numbers as to cause health issues.
So what can you do when you find mold growing in your home?
First, be able to identify it. Many people think of mold as the speckles of black spots they find in the bathroom, but it can also be white, green, orange, or purple. Look for it in any area that tends to be damp, including the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, basement, around leaky pipes or refrigerator ice makers, or anywhere in your home that has experienced a water incursion. In addition, mold can grow in air ducts, so if you’re having a problem, it’s best to have them inspected for signs of the fungus.
Unless you’ve experienced flooding, however, you can usually control household mold yourself. On hard surfaces, mold can be removed with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than one cup of bleach in a gallon of water, the CDC says. Be sure to thoroughly clean and dry the area because sensitive individuals can still have a reaction to the dead mold. In addition, mold contamination can recur if a source of moisture remains.
In the aftermath of flooding situations, the CDC recommends having professionals in to remediate any potential mold issues. In this case, the fungus will rapidly reproduce in such absorbent and porous materials as carpets, furniture, and drywall, which must usually be removed from the home, and the area treated to prevent mold regrowth.
To keep mold from growing in the first place, the CDC recommends that you keep humidity levels in the home no higher than 50 percent all day long, using an air conditioner and/or a dehumidifier to achieve this level. And make sure to use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom.
Finally, be sure to see us if you’re experiencing any unusual respiratory or other symptoms that you think may be related to mold. We can help diagnose and treat recurring symptoms, and help you decide how serious the problem is.