Ireland is wet; there's no denying it. But the common, and often seen as harmless, practice of drying clothes indoors can be seen as serious contributor to breathing difficulties, particularly in asthma sufferers.
Previous research has shown that wet clothes draped on drying frames or radiators can raise moisture levels by up to 30%.
"Moist environments encourage the growth of mould which can release ‘seeds’ called spores", explains Pheena Kenny of the Asthma Society of Ireland.
"The spores can cause allergic reactions in some people. Mould and fungal spores are often invisible to the naked eye."
"Normally, when people breathe in these spores, their immune system helps get rid of them by coughing or sneezing. If you aren’t sensitive to mould, you may never even experience a reaction."
“But for some people with asthma who are sensitive to mould spores, it can act as a trigger, causing asthma symptoms to get worse", Kenny said.
Who are most affected by this?
People with asthma who are more likely to have their asthma triggered by fungal and mould spores include:
- Babies and children
- Elderly people
- People with existing skin problems, such as eczema
- People with a weakened immune system
- People with severe asthma
Kenny explains that Aspergillus fumigatus spore can cause lung infections. While it grows throughout the year, the spores have a small peak in August and September, and the highest peaks in January and February.
These peaks are of no surprise when you consider the Irish weather in question.
But we can't change the weather. So how do we combat the problem?
“Where possible dry washing outside, or in a tumble dryer in a well-ventilated indoor space away from bedrooms and living areas” Kenny recommends.
“Mould and mildew can grow in damp and humid places, such as bathrooms, kitchens and basements.”
- Try not to dry clothes indoors, store clothes in damp cupboards or pack clothes too tightly in wardrobes
- To prevent mould building up indoors, ensure your house is well ventilated by opening windows regularly
- Use extractor fans or open windows to increase ventilation from laundry, showers, cooking, cleaning and using the dishwasher
- Wash mould off hard surfaces using a water, vinegar and soap mix
- Keep humidity low; use a humidifies or air purifier if necessary
- Keep air conditioner and heating filters clean and dry
- Fix leaks and moisture problems and keep things dry and clean in places where mould tents to grow (e.g. showers, under sinks)
For more information
Check out the Asthma Friendly Home Checklist at www.asthma.ie for more information on creating an asthma friendly home.
Contact the free-phone Asthma Adviceline on 1800 44 54 64, Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm to speak with an Asthma Nurse Specialist.
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