Mold: Where It Grows, What It Does and How to Manage It

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Mold: Where It Grows, What It Does and How to Manage It

Mold lurks in unexpected places. That’s become even more apparent as pictures of moldy sippy cups are going viral online. Some parents have noticed that mold can grow inside the lids of one brand of sippy cups. The cup maker has come up with a solution to the problem, making new lids that have a two-piece valve that is easier to clean. Those new models are expected on the market soon. Until then, parents can get transparent lids to replace the old ones to keep a better eye on the lid’s cleanliness.

“It’s hard to say how dangerous mold in sippy cups is from a respiratory standpoint, since it’s not inhaled,” said Pulmonologist Pradeep Narayana, M.D., UnityPoint Health®. “However, it is certainly concerning.”

Mold is part of the natural environment and can be found just about anywhere indoors and outdoors. A variety of spores can grow on wood, paper, carpet and foods. Dr. Narayana says it can only take a few days for it to develop.

“Mold is most often found in basement, unfinished areas and garages, but you might find it unexpectedly in your shower basin and bathrooms,” Dr. Narayana said.

How does mold get in your home?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mold spores can enter your house through doors, windows and air movement systems including heaters, air conditioners and ventilation systems. Spores can also latch onto people and pets.

How do I prevent mold?

The best way to prevent mold is to keep areas clean and dry. Dr. Narayana suggests keeping humidity levels in your home at less than 50 percent. Other recommendations include making sure your home has adequate ventilation and keeping carpet out of bathrooms. Homeowners can also take the added step of mixing mold inhibitors into paint.

Despite efforts to prevent mold growth, sometimes it’s inevitable. While most molds are easy to see, others are not. Dr. Narayana says you can buy a mold test kit, if you’re suspicious there is mold growth behind the walls of your home. These are available at most home improvement retailers.

What is black mold?

One type of indoor mold we often here about is Stachybotrys chartarum, or more commonly referred to as black mold for its greenish-black color. The CDC says it’s not considered a common household mold, but it’s also not rare. The spores usually grow where there’s excess moisture from things like water damage, water leaks or flooding.

How do I clean mold?

The CDC says to address any type of mold in your home, first fix the water problem. You can remove mold from hard surfaces with certain products, soap and water or a bleach solution. Moldy carpets should be removed and discarded. Once mold starts growing in insulation, drywall and ceiling tiles, they also must be removed and replaced. Another option is to call professionals to get rid of a mold infestation.

How will I know if I’ve been exposed to mold?

“If you’ve been exposed to mold, you’ll begin to notice coughing, wheezing and a runny nose,” Dr. Narayana said.

However, if left untreated, long-term exposure to mold can cause serious health problems including asthma, infection and hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which leads to an exaggerate immune response. Dr. Narayana says diabetic and immunosuppressed patients are the most vulnerable to mold.

Immunosuppressed patients are those with vulnerable immune systems due to treatments for illnesses like cancer, arthritis or rheumatologic disorders. Studies also suggest an early exposure to mold may lead to asthma development in children, especially children who are genetically susceptible to the disorder.

What do I do next?

If you have health concerns you think might be caused by mold in your home, contact your UnityPoint Health provider. If necessary, your provider can suggest a specialist, like a pulmonologist, to get a better handle on your symptoms.