Molds are known environmental triggers that cause asthma, a non-contagious chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the airways to the lungs and makes breathing difficult. Although no cure for asthma exists, reducing triggers, such as mold spores, is one way to control asthma.
Asthma symptoms can also be controlled with long term, daily medications as well as quick-relief medications (taken in the event of an asthma attack).
Mold and Asthma: The Connection
Some people are more sensitive to mold than others. Not everyone exposed to mold is affected. Because mold is just one of many known asthma triggers, you should consult your doctor to determine the cause of your symptoms.
The most common symptom of an asthma attack is wheezing, a hissing sound when breathing. Other asthma symptoms include:
- chest tightness
- difficulty speaking.
Molds are microscopic fungi that grow on just about any surface when moisture is present. In nature, mold breaks down decaying plants. Mold reproduces by releasing spores. There are thousands of different types of mold. In large quantities, mold spores can cause respiratory problems and allergic reactions, including asthma.
Certain types of mold produce mycotoxins, causing additional serious health risks. The term “toxic mold” refers to molds that produce mycotoxins. Areas with constant high levels of moisture and limited air circulation are particularly susceptible to mold growth that produces mycotoxins.
Molds and Asthma
Â In people with asthma, inhaling mold spores can cause an asthma attack. Indoors, mold is most commonly found in dark, musty, humid and warm environments, such as:
- crawl spaces
- laundry rooms.
Outdoors, mold grows in shady, moist areas, such as in piles of fallen leaves or compost.
Air quality is very important to our health, and mold affects air quality. Mold cannot be totally eliminated, but controlling and removing sources of moisture can be beneficial for preventing asthma and other health problems.
It is important to identify mold sources so that they can be eliminated. Mold grows on any moist, damp surface. If you suspect mold is present in your home, mold test kits are available to identify and quantify toxic molds such as stachybotris and aspergillus. If you have allergic reactions to mold, a simple mold test kit may help you identify mold and its source. Reducing mold can help alleviate symptoms related to asthma, rhinitis, sinitus or atopic dermatitis.
Some tips for preventing and reducing mold include:
- Checking kitchen and bathroom faucets, pipes and ductwork regularly for leaks.
- Installing vapor barriers in home crawl spaces, and keeping crawl spaces well ventilated.
- Keeping spa areas well ventilated if you have one. Spas produce a large amount of moisture.
- Maintaining relative humidity by using a dehumidifier.
Water Damage and Mold
Water damage can cause serious mold problems. If you have a flood or large water spill indoors, take measures quickly to remove the problem and dry the area quickly. Call a professional flood control company to extract water if you are unable to do so yourself. Mold can grow in 24 to 48 hours, so act quickly. Remember, reducing mold is important to avoid allergy and asthma symptoms, as well as for your overall health.
Envirotenn. (n.d.). Prevention. Retrieved March 20, 2009, from the Envirotenn Web site: http://www.envirotenn.com/prevention.php.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (n.d.). Mold. Retrieved March 20, 2009, from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Web site: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/asthma/mold.cfm.
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2009). Retrieved March 20, 2009, from the United States Environmental Protection Agency Web site: http://www.epa.gov/asthma/molds.html.