Moisture is one of the primary things that can damage a home. Water damage itself is problematic, but the aftermath of water damage can be even more devastating. Molds and mildew are part of the natural environment and grow in moist settings. Unfortunately, these living organisms produce tiny spores that can lead to a reduction of indoor air quality and problems with allergies and breathing. In some cases, mold and mildew can be deadly. In order to ensure that your home is healthy and safe, reduced mold and mildew by controlling moisture. Here’s a look at how to control moisture in your home as well as the consequences of unmitigated moisture that leads to the growth of mold and mildew.

The Health Hazards of Mold and Mildew: Both mold and mildew have the potential to cause health problems. Molds, in particular, produce allergens, irritants, and potentially deadly substances called mycotoxins. While molds are usually not a problem, they can become problematic if they land on a damp spot and begin to grow. Their reproductive phase involves the production of spores, which can aggravate everything from allergies to common breathing problems like COPD. Allergic reactions to mold can be immediate or they can be delayed. Common reactions include asthma attacks, irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs, and even anaphylaxis in rare cases.

Mildew can cause many of the same symptoms that mold does, but is often less problematic because it is easier to get rid of. Whereas mold, which can be black or green in color, grows deep into whatever surface it happens to land upon, mildew is generally a surface fungus. Mildew can often be removed with common household cleaners, while mold, if extensive, must be removed by professionals.

Signs of Mold Exposure: The signs and symptoms of mold exposure are actually quite similar to those of the flu. In fact, telling the symptoms of mold exposure apart from the symptoms associated with the common cold and the flu can be quite difficult. For the most part, the common cold or flu will resolve after a week or ten days, but mold symptoms will persist for as long as you are exposed to the source.

Symptoms commonly associated with exposure to mold include asthma exacerbations, itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, headaches, and mild or severe problems with breathing. Other common symptoms include coughing, skin rashes, runny nose, and redness of the eyes. Severe reactions may include difficulty breathing, fevers, recurring lung infections, and even a compromised immune system that leads to what are called opportunistic infections (secondary infections that would not otherwise occur if the immune system was functioning properly).

Treating Mold Exposure: For the most part, treating mold exposure requires removing oneself from the environment in which the mold is growing. This may require you to leave your home for a period of time while the mold is cleaned up by a professional crew. In severe cases, were mold causes breathing issues or anaphylaxis, it may be necessary to enter the hospital for supportive treatment until the symptoms resolve. If left unattended, the symptoms of mold can lead to serious long-term health consequences and even death in rare cases. It is important to note that any kind of mold can be dangerous and that you need not be exposed to “toxic mold” in order to suffer the signs and symptoms of mold exposure.

Removing Mold: Believe it or not, it is impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores. Because these living organisms are found in almost every natural environment, one cannot completely eliminate them. That said, massive mold infestations can and must be removed to ensure quality indoor air.

The first step to removing mold is to determine how extensive the infiltration is. With small levels of infestation, it is possible for homeowners to do most of the work themselves. More extensive mold infiltration will require the services of a professional company, such as RestorationEze.com. Professional companies have the tools and equipment necessary to ensure that workers are not exposed to toxic levels of mold while they are removing the organisms.

In many cases, removing mold will require the removal of drywall, carpeting, subflooring, and other components of a home that have been exposed to water and are growing the organisms. Because mold is capable of penetrating deep into a surface, it is often necessary to completely remove the affected component of the home.

Once the mold is removed, it will be necessary to address the problem that caused it to grow in the first place. Common reasons for mold growth include broken plumbing, leaking basements, and high levels of humidity. These problems must be addressed before things like drywall and carpet are reinstalled or the mold will simply regrow and lead to additional mitigation costs.

Matt Buchanan is the Outreach Director for RestorationEze.com, where he helps home and business owners recover after water or fire damage emergencies. When not blogging about the restoration industry, Matt enjoys spending time in the Rocky Mountains with his wife, daughter and two dogs.