Can mould affect asthma?

About me

Hi, Iā€™m Dr. Vinesh Dhir. I currently work as a general practitioner in several SW London surgeries, including HIYOS. Diagnosing and managing asthma is a common part of my day-to-day job. Recently there have been concerns in the media raised about housing and its effect on respiratory conditions. I hope by writing this blog, I can improve your understanding of the impact of mould on asthma. Please remember that these blog posts should not replace you seeking advice directly from your doctor if you have any concerns.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a common lung condition that can cause occasional difficulty in breathing. There is no cure, however, there are treatments that keep the symptoms managed.  Asthma is usually treated with inhalers, and some people may need to take tablets.

What is it caused by?

Asthma is caused by a swelling to the breathing pipes that allow air to flow in and out of our lungs. This causes a temporary narrowing which can happen randomly or after exposure to certain triggers. Triggers include mould spores (discussed in this blog), smoke, cold air, exercise, infections and others.

What are the symptoms of asthma?
  • Wheezing ā€“ this can sound like whistling when you breathe
  • Tight chest
  • Coughing

These symptoms can vary from mild, to moderate, to severe and life-threatening.

What is mould?

This is a form of fungus that can grow in damp places. It often has black. White or green patchy appearance on the walls/ceilings. It may also smell damp and musty. Mould is more common in bathrooms and kitchens due to the condensation from washing and cooking.

What effect does mould have on asthma?

Mould produces spores which can be inhaled. If you have an allergy to mould spores it could trigger your asthma symptoms. Dust mites are more of an issue in homes that are damp and warm. Again, this can also be a trigger for asthma.

What to do if you have damp and mould at home?
  1. Find out what is causing the damp ā€“ for example, any leaks, or condensation from cooking/showering or drying clothes indoors.
  2. Open windows so air can move freely.
  3. Try to avoid drying clothes indoors. If you do not have anywhere else, then open a window. Some find de-humidifiers useful to prevent damp/mould.
  4. Close the shower/kitchen door to prevent condensation from moving to other rooms.
  5. Try to keep the home at a good background temperature ā€“ e.g. at least 15 degrees in all rooms.
  6. Deal with the mould. Always get a mould removal specialist or builder if the mould covers more than a square metre, or if the issue is caused by problems with the building itself or sewage.
  7. Report any repairs or leaks.

In future blog posts, we will discuss the various treatments for asthma and what you might be able to do yourself to reduce the triggers.

References:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/asthma/ (accessed 23rd January 2023)
https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/moulds-and-fungi/ (accessed 23rd January 2023)

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