Asthma in children affects around 10% of children in both the UK and the USA and is thought to arise from an interaction between genetic disposition and environmental factors. A new report from the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study now points to exposure to household mould as being one of the key environmental factors in the development of asthma in children and one of the key asthma causes. The researchers followed 176 children for seven years, after which time 18% had developed asthma. This was already known to be a high-risk group, because of a family history of asthma. The level of mould in the home was measured when the children were age one and aged seven. A measure called the Environmental Relative Mouldiness Index (ERMI) was used to assess mould levels. The ERMI depends upon carrying out DNA analysis to assess the presence of 36 different moulds in the environment.

Children living in homes where the ERMI was 5.2 or more were more than twice as likely to develop asthma compared to those living in homes with an ERMI of less than 5.2. This finding was only true at age one. By age seven, ERMI had no effect upon asthma risk. The other asthma risk factors of significance were parental asthma and sensitisation to house dust mite. This study should motivate expectant parents to reduce mould levels in the home to protect their baby from asthma and minimise asthma in children. Here are some simple measures we'd recommend to help you prevent asthma in children.

Clean off any visible mould patches on walls, around windows, or on ceilings, with white spirit or products from the Allersearch range of allergy-friendly cleaning products. You also need to be vigilant in checking for new growth:

  • Replace your shower curtain regularly - it's a favourite location for mould
  • Regularly check shower heads and rubber seals on fridges and freezers for mould
  • Get rid of items that smell of mildew - this includes furniture, books, and old newspapers. They may well be harbouring mould spores
  • Never allow food to go mouldy - check the fridge and bread bin regularly
  • Keep the kitchen door closed when cooking, and reduce steam by putting lids on pans
  • Dry clothes outside whenever you can
  • Open the windows after you have a bath or shower
  • Keep the whole house ventilated - open windows when the weather is dry
  • Vacuum regularly - dust is full of mould spores

A High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter like the IQAir HealthPro 150 or IQAir HealthPro 250 will trap virtually all mould spores (which have a range between one and 100 microns) that will go through it and will improve the air quality in the room where your baby or children sleep.

When carrying out these mould-clearing tasks, make sure it is a non-allergic family member who does them. Since allergy tends to run in families, it is likely that an adult or another child in the family will suffer from mould exposure too. Not only will tackling mould reduce the risk of asthma in children as well as the new baby, but it will also help anyone else who suffers symptoms from these potent allergens.