Drying washing indoors can trigger fatal lung infections, warns Manchester uni expert

Drying your wet washing indoors during winter can pose a serious health threat, according to a new study by Manchester doctors.

People suffering from severe asthma or a weakened immune system could be affected, after experts found that clothes put on drying frames or draped over warm radiators raise moisture levels in our homes by up to 30%.

Moisture in homes creates an ideal breeding conditions for mould spores and one in particular called aspergillus fumigatus, which can cause potentially fatal lung infections.  

Dr Denning, Professor of Infectious Disease in Global Health at The University of Manchester, said: “It’s estimated that as many as 87% of us dry our clothes indoors in the winter.

“One load of wet washing contains almost two litres of water, which is released into the room.

“Most of us are either immune to the fungus which grows in these humid conditions, or have a sufficiently healthy system to fight the infection.

“But, in asthma sufferers it can produce coughing and wheeziness, and in people with weak or damaged immune systems, such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.”

For AIDS patients and people who have an auto-immune disease, the fungus can cause pulmonary aspergillosis – a condition which can cause irreparable, and sometime fatal, damage to the lungs and sinuses.

Father of three, Craig Mather from Bolton was diagnosed with the disease after years of drying washing in his bedroom, unaware that it had aggravated his childhood asthma.

“I noticed coughing fits and night sweats – particularly when I had wet washing drying on the warm bedroom radiator,” he said.

“I only started to recover when my consultant prescribed me special drugs to fight the fungal infection.

“For the last 12 months I haven’t dried my clothes indoors and I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my health.

“I can’t do strenuous physical activity, but I am off the drugs and only have to go back to the clinic for check-ups every four months – and I’m able to ride my bike again.”

David Penman, from the Asthma Relief charity, admitted he was surprised that a link hadn’t been made sooner.

“We never added the two together,” he told MM.

“Damp is a very common trigger of asthma. I never thought of clothes on a radiator, but maybe it would be wise to use a tumble dryer for your clothes during the winter months.

“More asthma charities probably need to get this message across.”

Image courtesy of Rex Roof, with thanks.

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