Instead of spending time with his family at home, 26-year-old Christian Childers spent Christmas Eve in the hospital in a medically induced coma after a severe asthma attack led to cardiac arrest. The potential cause of this asthma attack: toxic mold that had been growing in his apartment for months.
Christian Childers and his fiancée Kendra Elliot first noticed the mold growing after Hurricane Ian flooded their home in September, Elliot told NBC affiliate WBBH-TV.
Despite attempts to get in contact with FEMA and the Red Cross, the family was forced to live with the mold for months, according to a GoFundMe set up by a family friend. The couple moved their family of five into the living room to avoid the toxic growth, but the mold continued to affect Childers, who had asthma and had to go to the hospital multiple times.
On December 24, Childers suffered an asthma flare-up and was struggling to breathe, Elliot told WBBH-TV. They went to his parents house, where he still wasn’t able to catch his breath, and then to the emergency room.
“They were on their way to the emergency room, and they didn’t make it,” Elliot told the local news station. “They had to pull into a fire station, and he went into cardiac arrest. He died, and they had to work on him for an hour to get his heartbeat back before they got him on the way to the hospital.”
Childers was initially put into a medically induced coma in the hospital to give his body a chance to recover from a hypoxic brain issue caused by a lack of oxygen, but on January 2 he died.
Additionally, during Childers’ hospital stay the family’s landlord sent them an eviction notice, which has been reviewed by Insider. Lorie Peterson, a friend of the family, said Elliot and her mother and two sons are still searching for a new place to live.
Mold is particularly dangerous for people with lung diseases like asthma
Mold growth in the home is usually related to excess moisture in the environment — for instance, a Category 4 storm can cause plenty of water-related damage. Some molds can release toxins into the air, which can irritate the lungs, but not all molds found in the home are toxic.
While most people won’t suffer health effects from living in a home with small amounts of mold, it can be dangerous for people with lung diseases or people who are immunocompromised.
People with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or compromised immune systems should not stay in a moldy home, even while it is being cleaned, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Severe reactions to mold can include fevers and shortness of breath.
Otherwise healthy people can experience symptoms from mold exposure including coughing and wheezing.
What to do if there is mold in your home
The best way to stop mold exposure is prevent it from growing in the first place.
The CDC recommends that people control humidity levels in their homes through ventilating bathrooms, laundry and cooking areas; promptly fix leaks; and thoroughly clean and dry after flooding. Using an air conditioner or dehumidifier during humid and warm months can be helpful, as well as avoiding carpeting rooms that may gather moisture, like bathrooms.
If, however, you can already see or smell mold in your home, it’s best to get professional help. Mold growth can be removed with commercial cleaning products, soap and water, or a solution of water and bleach (no more than 1 cup of bleach per gallon of water). While it’s possible to clean up mold on your own, anyone with extensive mold growth or preexisting health conditions that would make them sensitive to mold should vacate the home and let a professional handle the cleanup.