Flooding and mould
Violent weather can cause large-scale damage which impacts on families, homes and entire communities. Significant water damage to buildings can lead to mould growth.
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 minimize 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 treatment according to 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 the mould. Please note that emergency supplies can be obtained from the pharmacy if your prescription has been lost in the flood.
Lost your medication or prescription in the flood?
You can get emergency supplies of your preventer and reliever from the 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 1-2 days of the flood. Try to clean up and dry out your home within this time period 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 ¼ 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 this challenging time, please call the Asthma Foundation on 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462).