We tend to think of moulds as being the visible black areas on walls or bathroom tiles, little realising that mould spores themselves are so tiny, many of them are invisible to the human eye.
Moulds can affect people both in the home, at school, in the office or outdoors.
In the home the places you are most likely to be affected are the kitchen, the bathroom and a bedroom that has an ensuite shower room. Of course, other rooms in the house can be affected too, particularly basements or cellars or anywhere there is, or has been, a leak. Some buildings are especially damp and musty if they are not properly ventilated.
Outdoors, moulds or fungi grow on organic matter, plants in the greenhouse, fallen leaves, damp soil - in fact any vegetation that once damp can encourage moulds to grow.
Autumn is a great time for cleaning up the garden, raking leaves, getting rid of spent vegetable and other plants. Sadly these are all areas where moulds grow and when disturbed the spores are released into the air and inhaled by anyone who happens to be close by. These can affect sensitive people.
Our personal experience of mould
As a family we are all sensitive to mould but it wasn't until we visited one of our children many years ago in northern Portugal that the significance of its effects were brought home to us. While many people experience symptoms similar to hay fever, wheezing or asthma and coughing, symptoms that are less know are behavioural and psychological ones.
Mould gives off VOCs. These are volatile organic compounds and this may well be the reason that people who are chemically sensitive are often also sensitive to mould. It could also account for the types of symptoms that it can trigger.
We imagine Portugal as being sunny and warm and dry but not northern Portugal in the winter months. Black mould grows on the outside of the houses and the weather can be damp and miserable. We found our daughter struggling to cope with the effect it had on her. Her personality seemed to have changed and we found it difficult to communicate with her. Since we were not in a position to sort the mould out in her accommodation the way we would normally recommend, we arranged for some desensitising drops to be made up and sent to her, which helped her to manage until she got back home.
Since then she has experienced the usual wheezing and sneezing from exposure to moulds but not the debilitating suppression of mood that she experienced in Portugal. However, we believe that mould can be a major contributing factor in a depressed mood and for anyone suffering depression it is well worth looking into.
Dr Diana Samways (a now retired member of the BSEM) is herself allergic to mould and in her book 'I'm a Patient ... Get me out of Here ...' discusses the traumatic effect that moulds can have including gross mood swings, acute fear and panic, digestive problems including bloating, energy loss and joint pain. These are in addition to the more localised symptoms mentioned above.
"As a Physician specialising in allergy and environmental medicine, I am very impressed with the Airfree Air Steriliser for the purpose of removing mould and their spores from the air we breathe... Overall I feel that the Airfree has contributed greatly to the reduction in the mould count in parts of my house... It has also contributed to an increase in my mental and physical energy and stamina. I can wholeheartedly recommend this machine for anybody with a serious allergy to mould and other airborne allergens. Also I recommend it to my patients with this problem." Dr Diana Samways, specialising in Nutrition, Allergy and Environmental Medicine, Surrey.
How to minimise the effects of moulds outdoors.
If you are sensitive to mould and fungi and need to work in the garden it's a good idea to wear a mask to prevent the inhalation of mould spores. Try to avoid exposure on damp humid days when the mould count in the air is likely to be high.
Controlling mould at home or in the office.
We recommend a multi faceted approach to controlling mould in your indoor environment.
First of all it's imperative to deal with sources of damp, whether these are from a leaky roof (fix the roof!) or excessive moisture coming through a wall (fix if possible otherwise pull the moisture out with a dehumidifier).
Once integral sources of damp have been dealt with there are a few lifestyle changes that may need to take place as well as the use of some particular products that can help.
* Be aware that drying laundry on radiators will add to the moisture content in the air and encourage moulds to grow. If possible dry clothes outside, in a externally exhausted tumble dryer or on a rack in a separate room. This may or may not be possible and if it is not a dehumidifier with a laundry drying mode can be a godsend.
* Air flow - Always open the windows to your bedroom and in the bathroom when you have bathed or showered. We leave the window open until all traces of condensation have disappeared.
* If you have an ensuite shower or bathroom this is particularly important as the humidity will pass into the bedroom and encourage moisture to settle in bedding and on surfaces.
* If appropriate, sleep with the window partially open to reduce the build-up of moisture in the room.
* If you have a humidity problem in the office you may have less control over the situation.
Look below at our recommended products.
Products for Mould Allergy
How to detect and then control or eliminate mould and mould spores indoors.
* A Home MouldCheck Kit can be invaluable. It will show you the mould count in a particular room - it could also convince an employer that there is a problem in the office, which needs attention. If you already know there is a problem, you can proceed to step 2 though a test kit can be useful for before and after results.
* A hygrometer is a small battery-run gadget that measures the relative humidity in the room. Ideally and for comfort, a relative humidity of between 40 and 50% should be maintained as it is not so dry that it affects the skin and airways but dry enough not to encourage mould to grow.
* Once you have established that you have a problem (If mould count and relative humidity appear to be fine, perhaps something else is causing your symptoms!) we suggest the following:
* As an initial and rapid solution to the mould spores present, AirCleanse can be sprayed into the room. This will kill mould spores and denature other allergens present in the air such as pollens, dust mite and pet allergens. It is a non-toxic, plant based spray containing Peruvian balsam and essential oils of Eucalyptus and Ylang ylang.
* While an air purifier will trap mould spores in a tightly woven filter such as a HEPA filter, we suggest a better solution is an air steriliser, which will actually kill the mould spores in the air and keep them to a minimum.
* If your relative humidity is above 50% we recommend that you use a dehumidifer. This machine pulls moisture out of the air. You will be surprised at how much water appears in the tank. Once the tank is full the machine turns itself off until you have emptied it. We have managed to solve a problem in a cupboard on the back wall of our home that is built into the bank and below road level. This was wet with moisture until we set up a dehumidifer in there, which needs emptying usually once per day. For a week or so we stopped using the machine, having moved it elsewhere, and very soon everything in the cupboard was damp again. A good dehumidifier is a really great machine that can make a huge difference to the comfort of your home.
Unfortunately we can't eliminate mould allergy but we can help you to reduce the levels of mould in your indoor environment.