As the floodwaters from Hurricane Florence recede, worries over mold growing inside homes will rise.
Unfortunately, whether your home is harboring mold isn’t always evident to the naked eye. Windblown rains that caused water to seep into homes through gaps around chimneys, doors and windows could also be a catalyst for mold in your home.
While not everyone is sensitive to mold, which thrives in moisture, it can cause a stuffy nose, sore throat and other common allergy reactions, said Dr. Charles Bregier, Novant Health medical director of corporate health.
People with mold allergies may have more severe reactions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Immune-compromised people and people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may get serious infections in their lungs when they are exposed to mold, the CDC advises.
When allergies are flaring, it can be difficult to determine whether the cause is routine allergens or mold growing inside your home, Bregier said.
“Be mindful of what your typical allergy symptoms are like,” Bregier said. “If you go inside and it’s getting worse, then you've probably got mold and mildew problems.” A stale or mildew smell can also be a telltale sign of mold, he said.
The only way to positively identify mold as a problem is to see an allergist for testing, he said.
“People with asthma or other chronic respiratory illness should be more aware and more proactive about their situation,” he added. “They should dry out their homes as quickly as they can.”
When you are cleaning your home, you will want to take precautions to protect yourself from exposure to harmful chemicals and the mold. Keeping humidity levels low, no higher than 50 percent, can help control mold growth, he said. So simply keeping the air conditioning running full time could help. You may want to consult a reputable contractor to inspect and help dry out the home, or replace wet drywall as needed, he said.
Some mold cleanup can be done yourself, using common household cleaners. If you use bleach to clean up mold, do not mix with ammonia, which can produce toxic fumes when combined. Open doors and windows for ventilation and wear nonporous gloves and eye protection.
The CDC has extensive resources for homeowners and renters who may have mold in their homes.