Infants can fall asleep almost anywhere, but a moldy room should be the very last place they are given to rest
Infants may sleep just about anywhere, but a very moldy room is one of the very, very last places they should ever sleep.
A child’s health can be greatly, greatly impacted by mold in the home.
Some children have passed away as a result of mold exposure, though these cases are severe and rare.
Other children, according to many studies, develop long term health problems due to mold growth in their home or apartment, such as having higher incidences of asthma, as well as inflammation and immune system changes developing as a result of early exposure to certain molds (toxigenic, mycotoxin-producing molds).1National Institute of Environmental Health Services (NIH), “Mold and Your Health,” Published Nov. 2021
Mold detection and prevention should be among the highest of your priorities as a parent.
The danger signs: Please take fast action to fix, and move immediately.
The very worst cases of mold growth in a home or apartment are likely accompanied by:
- Smell: A damp or musky smell, such as that of wet clothes, or dirty socks. (Smell the space, as well as your child’s crib or mattress.)
- Sight: Visible mold spots or water spots on walls or ceilings.
- Touch: Buckling baseboards, and warping walls (both of which occur due to water damage.)
- Flooding, Broken Pipes: After a hurricane, home flood, or bad water leak, please recognize that you have as little as 24-48 hours to relocate to a safe and dry area, while your apartment is fixed / remediated.
There are other indications that a child’s room or apartment may be affected by lesser amounts of mold, but I mention the above to help you establish your “panic level,” and what response is most appropriate given your concerns and what your home or apartment looks like.
Children can live in a room that has some mold spores (all rooms do) and many do so, but they should never live in a room greatly affected by viable mold.
If you do not notice the above three items (a damp or musky smell, visible mold, and obvious water damage), you should be fine in the short term.
If you want to go to much greater lengths to ensure your child isn’t being affected by mold at all, look beyond the above most obvious signs of water damage.
Signs you might have some mold in a child’s room include:
- Child can not / does not sleep through the night.
- Red, watery, or itchy eyes.2Nationwide Children’s Org, Accessed Mar. 14, 2023
- Sneezing, stuffy or runny nose.
Since mold is an allergen to some, since it can affect even those not allergic to it, and since some molds produce highly toxic byproducts known as mycotoxins, you’re basically looking for areas of the body where microscopic spores of mold may reach and affect your child—and that is most obvious in the nose, mouth, lungs, and other mucous membranes or exposed areas like the eyes.
Since mold spores are also easily breathed in (always, but usually in acceptable quantities, or diluted such as when we’re outside or the windows are open), difficulty breathing, and coughing or wheezing are also signs of possible mold problems.
It’s not the size of the mold spores that causes this wheezing or coughing, but the negative health effects it is encouraging or causing.
Mattress mold check
A friend of mine tells me after they bought a new mattress, they were shocked to find their 2-year-old was sleeping soundly through the night.
What did the old mattress look like? Like coffee had been spilled in parts of it.
Another friend tells me they moved states and their crib mattress (along with the rest of their belongings) were wrapped in plastic and trucked across five state lines. Their kid’s sleep changed immensely and for the worse after moving to a new state, and a new apartment.
But the state was “less moldy” than the one they’d moved from and the apartment had no obvious signs of mold.
What did the old mattress look like? Only one edge of it (the left or right side of it) looked like coffee or water had been spilled on it. My guess is that condensation built up over the move from one state to another while the mattress was wrapped in plastic in the back of a hot truck, and while the mattress sat in the garage after that.
That small bit of condensation moved to the bottom of the plastic wrap, soaking or wetting the mattress. And mold would then very likely have grown along that lower edge.
It smelled skanky too. (For the record, “Skank usually refers to a hint — and sometimes more — of body odor in a fragrance, occasionally with overtones of halitosis and rotting flesh.’)
A wet mattress is unlikely to ever fully dry. Spilled baby formula, pee, drinks, and more will turn your child’s mattress into a potential mold hazard over time.
Mattresses should be replaced when they start looking stained and discolored!
If the room and apartment smell great, check the mattress and crib. Please.
“Children should also not enter buildings with mold damage.” – U.S. CDC
In its publication “What to Wear Before Entering a Home or Building with Mold Damage,” (Nov. 30, 2017) the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that:
“Children should also not enter buildings with mold damage.”
People with a “breathing problem like asthma,” or a “weakened immune system” are likewise advised to “not enter a building with mold damage.”
Just as you wouldn’t hand your child a sharp knife to play with, you shouldn’t lay them down to rest in a room where mold is growing.
It should be one of your highest priorities as a parent to ensure the room(s) where your child is sleeping is as free of mold as possible.
A baby’s room or nursery is slightly more prone to mold for two reasons, each of which are controllable:
- Use of a humidifier: Humidifiers are often recommended for use in a baby’s room to help them breathe and sleep better. Generally speaking, you should be alright running a humidifier through the night, and then turning it off during the day. To be sure, you should also have a hygrometer in that room to ensure the humidity level doesn’t exceed 50%. (I have myself run a humidifier in a bedroom for hours and the hygrometer’s reading was alright. But if you see condensation or even feel the room is too humid or muggy, it probably is.)
- Eating, peeing, drinking, snacking, dripping.: Just between us parents, there are a lot of liquids moving around in a baby’s room: Infant formula, water, juices, pee on the mattress, and the latest bright idea your baby just had to pour something all over the floor. In my personal experience, these are
There’s no guarantee that your infant or toddler is going to get sick if they sleep in a mold-affected room. However, there’s also no guarantee that they won’t. The fact is, it depends on several factors, including the specifics of the room, the severity of the mold infestation, and the overall health and sensitivity of the baby. Of course, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and it should always be the goal to keep your child’s room free of that nasty fungus.
How bad is the mold?
Typically, if there’s a small mold colony growing in a hidden area of your baby’s room, it’s unlikely that the concentration of spores in the air will be enough to make them sick.
But a small mold infestation won’t stay small forever, and if it’s ignored for weeks or months, it could easily expand into a much more serious problem.
The larger the mold colony in your child’s room gets, the more spores there will be in the air, and the more likely it will be for the infant to experience adverse health effects. For this reason, if you ever discover even a tiny amount of mold growth in a room where your child sleeps, you should take immediate action to eliminate it.
Where is the mold located?
If you see mold or know of an area in your home or apartment that’s been affected by water damage, move your child as far away from it as possible when sleeping. Ideally, move entirely out while the mold is being addressed, but I realize this is a lot easier said than done for many of us.
So, at least move your child as far away from that mold concern as possible, as distance and dilution makes all the difference. Do what you can to extend distance from the mold hot spot, and to dilute the mold spores by increasing the flow of fresh air.
Another relevant factor is the specific location of the mold growth in your young child’s room. As a general rule, the closer the fungus is to the baby’s crib or bed, the higher the chances that they’ll be breathing spores regularly while they sleep. For example, if there happens to be a flourishing mold infestation in the same corner of the room where your child sleeps, they’ll be at much higher risk for getting sick than if it were farther away.
Ideally, you should regularly inspect the entirety of your baby’s room for signs of mold, but it’s especially important that you at least check the area around their crib or bed.
Children (and women) are typically more sensitive to mold
It’s important to note that young children are inherently more sensitive to airborne contaminants than older children and adults, and that includes mold spores. That said, some infants are significantly more susceptible to mold-related illness than others. If your baby suffers from asthma, a mold allergy, or a weakened immune system, it may only take a relatively small number of mold spores to make them sick, and their reaction may be more severe as well. If you have a young child with any of these health conditions, it makes it even more imperative that you’re diligent about recognizing and dealing with mold growth.
Signs of mold exposure in infants
If you have reason to suspect that your infant has been exposed to mold in their room, the wisest course of action is to remove them from the environment immediately. Find somewhere else for them to sleep until you can inspect the room for mold and eliminate what you find, either by removing it yourself or by hiring mold remediation professionals. If the symptoms seem serious or they persist, it’s never a bad idea to take your baby to the doctor, just to be safe. Listed below are some of the most common symptoms that your young child may experience when having a reaction to mold exposure.
- Sore throat
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Itchy eyes, nose, or throat
- Dry, scaly skin
- Trouble breathing
How can you prevent mold in your baby’s room?
When it comes to mold, it’s always easier to prevent the infestation before it happens, rather than dealing with it after it shows up.
Plus, if you’re proactive about preventing the fungus from growing, you can eliminate any risk of your baby being exposed to it.
Overall, there are a handful of measures you can take to minimize the chances of mold growing and thriving in the room where your child sleeps.
- Regularly clean and dust the room.
- Keep humidity levels well below 60% (use a dehumidifier).
- Ensure the room is well ventilated (open windows, install fans, etc.)
- Clean up liquid spills immediately—drinks, formula, pee, water, etc.
- Periodically inspect for signs of mold growth or moisture problems.
- If you use a humidifier, make sure it’s not growing mold inside of it.
- 1National Institute of Environmental Health Services (NIH), “Mold and Your Health,” Published Nov. 2021
- 2Nationwide Children’s Org, Accessed Mar. 14, 2023