Mildew, which is an early-stage mold, is a type of fungi or group of simple microscopic organisms that thrive in moist environments, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency website. Mildew can grow on most household surfaces, as well as on organic materials like plants. Infants are at higher risk for adverse health effects from mildew and mold due to their sensitivity to the environment. The New Mexico Department of Health website states that young children are at greater risk when they are exposed to moldy environments on a daily or routine basis.
Visually, mildew is a thin black or white growth produced by mold. A policy statement on indoor mold toxicity from the American Academy of Pediatrics states that mold spores, which grow where moisture proliferates, can "deposit on people and animals, making clothing, shoes, bags and pets common carriers of mold into indoor environments." With the right temperature and moisture combination, fabrics are also susceptible to mildew growth and should be kept dry and aired frequently.
The American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement states that molds can cause respiratory problems in infants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website explains that exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing or skin irritation. In another CDC report, "Moisture, Mold and Mildew," mold and mildew can "lead to allergic reactions in susceptible individuals, as well as other health problems." Numerous health organizations, such as the Minnesota Department of Public Health, state that infants and other vulnerable populations may be affected more severely and sooner than other people by mold growth.
The CDC report advises that cleaning and disinfecting "with nonpolluting cleaners and antimicrobial agents" helps protect against mold growth. Cleaners used in infant areas should be safe and non-toxic. The same report suggests that buildings with forced air heating systems and room ceiling fans facilitate greater air movement, which deters mildew growth. The Federal Emergency Management Agency report recommends use of dehumidifiers in homes where mildew is a concern, along with open windows and fans as long as mold is not already present.
Any parent who is concerned that her infant was exposed to mildew or any form of mold should take the child to the doctor for monitoring and possible treatment for respiratory problems. A doctor can monitor your child for possible allergies and sensitivities. To prevent future household problems with mildew, you should protect the home against mold and pay particular attention to the areas where your infant sleeps, eats and plays.