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How to damp proof your parent's house

How to damp proof your parents' house

Protecting a home from damp and mould can be difficult. Whether your parents are managing their own home care or you’re trying to help them out, possibly from a distance, there are steps that everyone can take to ensure damp doesn’t damage the home or affect your parent’s health.

Lindsey McManus, Deputy CEO of Allergy UK, offers tips for spotting the effects of damp and tricks for getting rid of it.

What are the warning signs that damp is worsening an older person’s health?

Symptoms caused by damp and mould can be hard to spot as they’re often confused with signs of a cold or flu. If your parent’s home is cold and damp they may experience any and all of the following complaints:

  • Feeling cold
  • Aching joints
  • Nasal congestion
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Dry, itchy skin or eyes
  • Blue skin and lips
  • Shivering

Allergy UK has a symptom checker you can use with your parent to determine if any of the above symptoms are cause for concern. If any symptoms persist they shouldn’t be left untreated as mould spores in your parent’s homes could lead to serious fungal infections within their airways and sinuses.

How can damp affect an older person’s health?

If you parent’s home is particularly cold and damp these conditions can affect joints and exacerbate any respiratory conditions your parent may have whether allergic or not.

The symptoms of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchiectasis and sinusitis as well as eczema, dermatitis and influenza can all worsen if you parent spends a prolonged period of time exposed to damp and particularly the mould it causes.

If the spores released by mould are breathed in or come into contact with your parent’s skin they can make them feel tired as their immune system is busy battling against the spores.

As well as aggravating any current health conditions your parent may have damp can also bring on new ones, causing new symptoms to develop in the organs that are already affected.

If you’re worried that your parent’s long-term health condition (particularly asthma, rhinitis or eczema) is due to an allergy to mould in their home it might be a good idea to arrange for them to have a skin prick test or blood test with their GP or a specialist allergy centre on referral.

How do I reduce damp in my parent’s home?

Mould grows in damp environments and while there are many ways you can work to prevent it and stop it from spreading sometimes older houses can be more susceptible to dampness especially in the winter months.

Have a general check around your parent’s home, especially in the kitchen and bathroom, for any damp patches or spots of mould that could grow and spread if left unattended to. If the cause of the damp isn’t easily determined it may be a good idea to get a building surveyor in to check whether it’s a structural issue.

Here are just a few things you and your parents can do to ensure their home is free from mould:

- Turn on the extractor. Encouraging your parent to use their extractor fan while cooking will reduce the moisture in the air and avoid damp patches on the wall caused by steam.

- Open a window. This may not always be possible for parents who are particularly susceptible to the cold but if you can open a window to provide adequate ventilation without leaving them sitting in a draught then you’re onto a winner.

- Heat the house. This may sound obvious but if your parent’s central heating isn’t working efficiently this can lead to a build-up of moisture that hasn’t been evaporated by the hot air from their heating system.

- Have a clean-up. If your parent’s window frames, bathroom silicone or kitchen tiles are darkening with mould round the edges it may be time to get an old toothbrush out and start scrubbing. A weak solution of bleach and warm water should do the trick when removing mould.

- Keep surfaces dry. Kitchen and bathroom tiles are particularly prone to mould growth as condensation from the steam of cooking or showering settles on the walls. Drying and airing steam filled rooms will help to reduce damp in your parent’s home.

- Purify the air. If your parent suffers badly at night with allergies this could be due to allergens in the air caused by spores from mould. Using an air purifier in their bedroom along with the tips already mentioned, can help to trap these airborne aggravators, preventing them from irritating your parent’s allergies and interrupting their sleep.

- Tumble dry clothes. It’s true to say that not everyone has a tumble dryer but drying clothes indoors over radiators and airers, especially over the winter months, can lead to condensation and mould in your parents’ home. Investing in a tumble dryer that is vented outside or encouraging them to dry their clothes in the garage will decrease the risk of mould in their house.

- Clear out the fridge. If your parent don’t worry too much about food use-by dates try keeping a watchful eye on products in their fridge to prevent decaying and mouldy food contaminating other foods and exacerbating other health conditions.

- Stop humidifying. Although some parents will require a humidifier for medical reasons it’s best if they avoid them as they can create an idea environment for mould to flourish.

- Declutter. Removing piles of old newspapers and keeping houseplants to a minimum can help to deter mould from growing. Dampness in the air can make newspaper piles an ideal spot for mould to sprout and houseplants raise the moisture level in the air leading to dampness and mould growth on the surface of the soil they are growing in.

If your parents’ mould infestation is proving problematic it may be best to contact the environmental health department of their local authority for advice or further assistance getting rid of it.

What do I do if there’s mould in my parents’ rented accommodation?

First check their home for any signs of damp. If it’s an external fault causing the damp you may have to contact their landlord or local council to come and fix the problem. It’s in the landlords own interest to get problems with their property fixed but if your parents are struggling to get help they should contact Citizens Advice Bureau or Age UK for advice.

Allergy UK is the leading charity dedicated to supporting an estimated 21 million people who suffer from allergies in the UK. For advice on allergy symptoms and treatments call their helpline on 01322 619898 or email info@allergyuk.org.

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