Allergy Expert Offers Advice to Flood Victims

Along with the emotional and financial impact of flood damage, floodwaters may bring health problems. H. James Wedner, M.D., professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said that after the water recedes, damp homes and businesses are fertile grounds for mold growth, which can cause allergic reactions and asthmatic symptoms in sensitive people.

"Mold loves water," Wedner said. "When your building is flooded, it's very difficult to dry it out quickly and completely, and that allows mold to grow. Walls made of Sheetrock soak up water far above the floodline, and mold can be hidden under wallpaper, carpet, and floorboards and in ceiling tiles, furniture, and clothing."

Wedner is a Washington University allergy and asthma specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and has conducted research investigating the molds and other allergens present in homes following the 1993 flood in the Midwestern United States.

Molds (and mildew, a type of mold) are fungi, which reproduce by releasing spores. Inhaling the spores causes allergic reactions in some people. Symptoms of mold allergy include itchy, watery eyes; itchy, runny nose; headaches above and below the eyes; itchy ears and changes in hearing; itchy throat and palate; difficulty breathing; coughing; and shortness of breath. Mold spores may also trigger asthmatic reactions in asthma sufferers.

If a doctor confirms that health symptoms stem from a reaction to mold, medical treatments are effective: those can be pharmacotherapy--which may include antihistamines or steroids, given intranasally or orally--or if necessary, immunotherapy, often called allergy shots, which allow your immune system to build up a tolerance to the allergen. But Wedner emphasizes that the source of the reaction, the mold itself, also has to be removed.

For those who have to deal with a flooded building, Wedner has the following recommendations:

  1. Dry it out quickly. Mold will grow almost immediately in wet conditions.
  2. Cool it down. Mold likes warmth as well as humidity.
  3. Remove wet materials.Wet Sheetrock can't be repaired and must be taken out;
  4. Clean anything that has been wet.That includes clothing, which should be dry cleaned.
  5. Throw away anything that can't be thoroughly cleaned.That favorite couch might have to go.
  6. Hire a professional to clean affected areas of the building with appropriate materials.Often a solution of 10 percent bleach is used.

Download Center

  • Industrial Premium Library

    Empower your workforce with the manufacturing, industrial maintenance, operations, HSE, compliance, and professional development skills they need to complete their tasks efficiently and safely. Not only will you boost productivity, reliability, skills, and morale but you’ll also onboard faster, and retain your best employees while meeting regulatory standards. Vector Solutions offers over 1,800 award-winning eLearning courses designed to keep your employees safe, transfer knowledge of fundamentals, and develop industry and job-specific skills that reduce downtime, maintenance costs and more.

  • Safety Metrics & Insights Webinar

    EHS professionals have been tackling the subject of how to best measure performance for many years. Lagging indicators like the Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) and Days Away Restricted Transfer Rate (DART) are a good place to start, but you shouldn’t forget about the leading indicators that your workforce does every day to prevent incidents from occurring. Learn about some of the most common KPIs of safety programs and how Vector EHS Management software can be used to track these metrics in this webinar.

  • Risk Matrix Guide

    Understanding the components of a risk matrix will allow you and your organization to manage risk effectively. Download this guide for details on risk matrix calculations including severity, probability, and risk assessment.

  • OSHA Recordkeeping Guide

    In case you missed it, OSHA recently initiated an enforcement program to identify employers who fail to electronically submit Form 300A recordkeeping data to the agency. When it comes to OSHA recordkeeping, there are always questions regarding the requirements and ins and outs. This guide is here to help! We’ll explain reporting, recording, and online reporting requirements in detail.

  • Safety Metrics Guide

    Is your company leveraging its safety data and analytics to maintain a safe workplace? With so much data available, where do you start? This downloadable guide will give you insight on helpful key performance indicators (KPIs) you should track for your safety program

  • Vector Solutions

Featured Whitepaper

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - September 2022

    September 2022

    Featuring:

    • ESG
      EHS Will Guide Future ESG Success for Many Organizations
    • MACHINE GUARDING
      Handling Material Handlers: Training Beyond PIT Requirements
    • EHS SOFTWARE
      The Missing Link with EHS Software
    • HEARING PROTECTION
      Noise Surveys from the Trenches
    View This Issue