How to combat health risks and hazards in your home

How to combat health risks and hazards in your home

2 min read

From mould and carbon monoxide to bedbugs and mice, these are some tips for dealing with health risks and hazards in your home


This fungus often appears where there is damp, condensation and a lack of ventilation, such as on windows, walls and behind cupboards. Not only do black walls and grouting look horrible, they’re also a threat to health, exacerbating asthma, and causing bronchitis and other breathing problems, plus eye, nose and throat irritation.
"Leave windows open when possible, especially bathrooms, where an extractor fan will also help"
Leave windows open whenever possible, especially in bathrooms, where an extractor fan will also help. Ideally, dry clothes outdoors. Keep buildings and gutters maintained and tackle leaks promptly.

Rats and mice

Mouse trap with cheese
Rodents carry a host of bacteria and viruses. These include salmonella, the respiratory infection hantavirus which you can catch by breathing in dust from droppings, and LCMV, a kind of meningitis. They’re not common, but who wants to live in a home contaminated with rat or mice poo or urine anyway?
Discourage rodents by keeping surfaces free from food and cleaning regularly, and blocking any possible access points. Put down traps as soon as you see signs of activity—droppings are a giveaway.


A plague of these gross insects caused a frenzy in France last year, thanks to warm weather and more people travelling. These little creatures leave red, itchy lumps when they feed off you in the night. Other tell-tale signs are bugs in the tags, seams or piping of your mattress and brown spots—bedbug poo—on your bedding. Bedbugs can sometimes be found in clothes, curtains and carpets too.
"Wash anything you can that’s affected on a hot wash, vacuum your bed and the area around it every day"
Wash anything you can that’s affected on a hot wash, vacuum your bed and the area around it every day, and keep a closed, plastic cover on your mattress for a year.

Carbon monoxide

Fires, woodburners, gas boilers and cookers can produce invisible, odourless but lethal carbon monoxide if they are faulty, badly installed or poorly maintained. Symptoms to be alert to include headache, feeling sick or weak, chest pain or shortness of breath.
If you think you’re affected, leave the house and get medical help. Make sure gas appliances are serviced regularly, have chimneys and flues swept, and install a carbon monoxide monitor in any room where the gas could be generated.

Shoes indoors

Shoes on a mat in a home by the entrance
Whatever etiquette might dictate, taking shoes off is the hygienic option when you enter a home. A study by microbiologist Professor Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona found coliform bacteria from faecal material on the outside of 96 per cent of shoes examined.
One species of coliform, E coli, can cause stomach bugs and urinary tract infections. Keeping floors clean will also reduce the risk.

Shower heads

Think catching Legionnaires’ disease from your shower sounds farfetched? It’s not impossible if it’s little used. To keep legionella bacteria at bay, store hot water at 60 degrees or higher and allow the shower to run for a few minutes before stepping in if you haven’t used it for a while.
"Descale your shower head every few months to prevent bacteria, viruses and microorganisms"
Descale your shower head every few months to prevent bacteria, viruses and microorganisms.
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter