The mould caused by all the rain across much of eastern Australia this year is more than an ugly black and dusty annoyance. For many people living with asthma (as well as undiagnosed asthma), it’s also a health danger.
Mould is a leading cause of asthma attacks, which can cause coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and problems breathing (in severe cases, needing a visit to hospital). Mould can also make the skin and eyes itchy or give you a stuffy nose.
Some people reading this may feel those same symptoms, even though they’ve never been tested for asthma. Talk to your doctor to get the advice you need to fix any breathing troubles.
If mould does trigger your asthma and cause breathing problems, there are some easy things you can do to make your breathing better:
Firstly, your health is your main aim.
Follow an Asthma Action Plan, making sure to use your preventer every day for the best protection, and your reliever when you feel the onset of symptoms. (If you don’t have an Asthma Action Plan, download a template here and ask your doctor to help fill it out.)
Talk to your doctor about how to look after your asthma when there are extra triggers in your home or office. For some people, this might include a short-term higher dose of your preventer puffer to help reduce the sensitivity in your lungs.
Check back in with your doctor in 2-4 weeks’ time, to make sure your recovery and management is on track. Your doctor may also need to adjust your normal inhaler doses to help reduce and stop future flareups.
Secondly, remove the mould from your home or office.
Mould can be sneaky: it often grows in damp places like bathrooms and laundries, walls, ceilings, window frames and furniture. But it can also silently grow behind curtains and bed heads, in wardrobes, behind wall hangings, inside air conditioners (just check before you turn them on). It can also grow in baby prams and under a child’s cot mattress.
If your lungs are affected by mould, it’s important to clean the mould or, if you are too sensitive, ask someone else to clean it for you.
To clean household mould, Asthma Australia suggests using a mix of 80% vinegar and 20% water, and make sure you wear safe clothing, such as a long sleeve shirt, long trousers, goggles, gloves, a shower cap and a P2 or N95 face mask to avoid breathing it in.
Thirdly, take action to stop the mould from coming back.
Studies have found that getting rid of damp in the home may go a long way to helping reduce mould and, therefore, asthma symptoms.
Good air flow helps remove excess moisture from the home. Here are some good places to start:
- Open your windows (while it’s not raining of course!) and doors.
- Turn on your bathroom’s exhaust fan while you’re in the shower to quickly remove steam and moisture.
- Repair any leaking taps and pipes.
- Remove wet towels and water damaged items like carpet.
- If you use a clothes drier, make sure the room has good air flow.
- Use the ‘dry’ setting on your air conditioner.
- Avoid using vapourisers and diffusers if the room has poor air flow.
- You can also think of getting a dehumidifier to help rid the air inside your home of excess moist air.
For more information on mould and asthma, including how to clean it in your home, visit http://asthma.org.au/about-asthma/triggers/flooding-and-mould/