Mould might be the culprit of your fatigue, headaches, rhinitis, asthma or worse.

After months of wet weather, mould related health issues are emerging. If your sinus and allergy symptoms disappear when you are away from home for a few days, and return when you come back, you have probably pinpointed the cause of your ‘allergies’.

You feel sick, go to your doctor, have a round of tests, nothing is revealed and yet you still feel sick. Mould can be responsible for whole families suffering from sinusitis, allergic symptoms, unexplained and repeated ‘flu. Moulds produce compounds called mycotoxins, which exposed to over time, can cause serious illness.  Dr Ailsa Hocking, of CSIRO Food and Nutritional Sciences, says “Mould resides in most places and we really do need to know if we need to avoid it in our food and homes to stay healthy. A lot of these compounds are carcinogenic.”

Airborne moulds

Moulds grow and produce spores on wallpaper, carpet, under the floorboards, in heating and air-conditioning systems, which become airborne after drying out or disturbed.

 Mould spores can cause allergy, headache, fatigue, running nose, sneezing, coughing, pneumonia and asthma. Some moulds are capable of affecting the nervous system and may be the cause of neurological disease.

Keeping houses and offices dry, eliminates or slows the growth of most mould species. To control mould growth, fix leaks, attend to condensation, and increase ventilation. Dry water leaks within 48 hours – the earlier the mould is discovered the cheaper and easier it is to get rid of.

Not all moulds affect health, and not everyone’s health is affected by airborne moulds, but it should be removed as soon as you notice it. Simply wipe surfaces, including the bathroom, with non-toxic substances like vinegar, diluted clove oil or tea tree oil to prevent regrowth. Chlorine Dioxide is an effective and affordable cleaning product that can be used to fumigate water damaged buildings.

Food Mould

Moulds are tough survivors; they grow on food, especially fruit like strawberries, survive in the fridge and even survive freezing, making them difficult to avoid.

Mouldy bread is better thrown away, because the mould grows beyond the areas you can see. You can keep the cheese after cutting off the mould though; because its hardness means the mould is only on the surface.

The more moist the food, the more likely mould is to grow in it. Moulds send branches and roots down into the food that you can’t see. Foods like cooked casseroles, soft fruit and vegetables and soft cheeses can have mould growing below the surface, so all cooked food should be refrigerated two hours after serving. Any food other than hard cheese that you can see mould on, should be discarded. Some domesticated moulds as found in blue cheeses are safe, but if a soft cheese starts growing other types of mould, it should be discarded. You can tell by its different colour.

What about jam? Moulds on jam could be producing mycotoxins and contrary to common practice, some say the whole lot should be discarded.

Guidelines from the US Food Safety and Inspection Service are:

Discard the following if found with mould: 

Luncheon meat, bacon, hot dogs, yoghurt, sour cream, soft cheese, soft fruits and vegetables, bread, baked goods, peanut butter, nuts and legumes, jams and jellies.

Foods that you can rescue from mould are:

Hard salami – scrub mould from the surface.

Hard cheese – cut off at least an inch around and below the mould and use fresh wrapping.

Firm fruit and veg – small mould spots can be cut off.

If you have persistent allergic symptoms or symptoms that just don’t make sense, have them checked by a health professional.