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While the goal of parents includes providing their children with a home that is safe, where they are protected and can grow and flourish, all too often there is a risk to a child’s health and well-being hiding right there within those very walls.
More common than you think
A paper published on by the National Institutes of Health suggests that one cause of the growing incident of asthma and other breathing related issues in children is household mold and cites a direct connection to dampness and mold and lung function.
The article notes: “About 30 investigations from various countries around the world have demonstrated a close relationship between living in damp homes or homes with mold growth, and the extent of adverse respiratory symptoms in children.”
Some of the early symptoms that may indicate your child, or someone else in your home, is developing asthma or another lung related issue includes:
- Frequent, intermittent coughing that is not cold related
- A whistling or wheezing when breathing
- Chest congestion, again not cold related
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Trouble sleeping because of coughing or wheezing, delayed recovery of respiratory infections, trouble breathing when playing or exercising or fatigue can also be signs that something more serious is going on.
Sources of mold
While many people understand and will be aware of the signs of mold in bathrooms and showers – the black discoloration that may appear – there are other sources of mold that may be less obvious.
- Windows can be a great place for mold to grow, especially when temperatures cause condensation inside or when vaporizers or humidifiers are in use. Regularly check around window frames to check for signs of mold and behind furniture that may be up against outside walls.
- Kitchen sinks and under sink areas, around washing machines and refrigerators, and in basements are also places moisture can accumulate and mold can develop. Where leaks or minor cracks may exist in a foundation, mold can even grow underneath rugs.
- Remember also that plants and appliances such as humidifiers and vaporizers, where water is added on a regular basis, can be sources of mold growth.
Beyond checking for and ensuring leaks and seepage are repaired as quickly as possible, and that spills are cleaned up quickly, there are a few things you can do to discourage mold growth in your home.
- Use de-humidifiers to pull excess moisture from the air and run bathroom fans after showering to ensure steam and moisture are pulled out of the room.
- Running a hood fan in the kitchen while cooking can also be an easy way to pull excess moisture out of the area.
- Ensure proper ventilation and air flow. When possible, opening windows is a good way to encourage air flow and to disperse moisture. When that is not possible, a table fan can work just as effectively to dissipate and eliminate moisture from settling.
- Don’t forget outdoor water build up. Outside, it is important to keep water from building up around the home that may find its way in. This can include installing extensions on spouts to direct water away from the home and cleaning and repairing roof gutters so that water does not sit and find its way in.
- Avoid creating places for moisture to sit. It’s a good idea to avoid storing potential sources of moisture, such as firewood, inside a home. And, where items are being stored in basements or closets, opt for plastic storage bins over cardboard to avoid an issue of something picking up a bit of dampness and turning into a source of mold over time.
- Ensure proper heat circulation to avoid rooms that are cold and can encourage condensation.
- Keep furniture away from walls and windows to avoid moisture build up there.
If you do spot mold in your home, it is important to clean the area as soon as possible, in order to avoid its spread, and to avoid your family from coming in contact with the harmful spores that can trigger reactions. Clean up, however, comes after you identify and repair the source of the moisture to prevent it from coming back again.
Use protective gear to ensure that as you remove the mold, you are not inhaling spores yourself. Gloves, a mask and goggles are all a good idea. Most areas can likely be cleaned with detergent and water, although there are also stronger chemical options available on the market for heavier staining.
Things that may have absorbed mold that cannot be cleaned properly, such as carpet, ceiling tiles, mats or shower curtains, may need to be replaced.
Get help if you need it
If the area is large, or if you’re not sure you have or can get to all of the mold, get professional help. You should also seek assistance if you have cleaned an area and find the mold is coming back as it either means the issue was not completely resolved or that the mold is hidden in a place that will need professional attention to access.