How flooding and mould can impact people with asthma


Flooding and mould

Flooding, major rain events or cyclones can cause large-scale damage, which impacts on families, homes and communities. Significant water damage to buildings can lead to mould growth. Mould can also grow in old, damp and poorly ventilated and maintained homes.

What does mould mean to people with asthma?

Mould can worsen a range of respiratory disorders, including asthma. Moulds produce millions of air-borne spores that are easily inhaled. When a person with asthma inhales mould spores, they are at increased risk of experiencing an asthma flare-up.

To minimise the risk of an asthma flare-up after water damage to a home, a person with asthma should aim to reduce their vulnerability to mould in two important steps.

Step one: Maintain your asthma prevention and treatment in line with your  written Asthma Action Plan

If you are prescribed a preventer, take it regularly. This will help you keep your asthma under control and reduce your sensitivity to mould.

If you have lost your medication or prescription in the weather event  you can obtain emergency supplies from a pharmacy.   You will need to go to a chemist and speak with a pharmacist.

Your asthma may play up in the coming weeks and months due exposure to mould and strenuous activity while cleaning up. Ensure you are familiar with your Asthma Action Plan and know the four-step Asthma First Aid plan.

Step two: Reduce or manage your exposure to mould

Assume all water-damaged items have mould growing on them within one to two days of the flood.  Try to clean up and dry out your home within this time by removing all wet materials including furniture and flooring.  If feasible, leave the responsibility for cleaning mould to someone who doesn’t have asthma.

Tips for removing mould

Everyone involved in removing mould should wear waterproof footwear, rubber gloves, a shower cap, safety goggles and a disposable particulate respirator (not a conventional dust mask, which does not protect against spores and bacteria). Use detergent and water to clean the mould off hard surfaces and dry as much as possible. The use of chemicals such as bleach is not recommended but may be required in some situations

  • Clean non-porous items such as glassware with good quality disinfectant and hot water
  • Wash porous items (such as stuffed toys and linen) as usual

Ensure air conditioners are cleaned and serviced by a qualified technician prior to use. Otherwise, mould spores can become airborne and distributed around the room or building

Consider the following alternatives to using bleach or detergents, particularly if you have asthma:

  • Mould on hard surfaces such as walls – use one-quarter of a teaspoon of oil of clove per one litre of water and spray onto surface. Leave overnight, then sprinkle surface with bicarb soda, spray with white vinegar, and scrub
  • Mould on delicate surfaces – use solution above, spray onto soft cloth, and apply
  • Mould on fabrics/clothes – soak in salt water overnight (1kg cooking salt in bucket of water). Hang on clothesline until a salt crust forms, then brush salt off. Mould should come off with the salt
  • Clothes which smell of mould – add a teaspoon of oil of clove to the washing machine with each load for the next couple of weeks

WARNING: Mixing bleach with ammonia-based products, toilet bowl cleaners or drain cleaners is DANGEROUS and can be fatal. Never mix cleaning solutions.

Want more information?

If you have any questions or concerns about managing your asthma during severe wet weather events, please call Asthma Australia on 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462).