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Is your home making you sick?

If your house is damp, it could be doing damage to your family's health.

If your household starts sniffing and coughing at this time of year and doesn’t stop again until the weather starts to get warmer, you may want to consider whether your living conditions are contributing to their health woes.

Many New Zealand houses are not just cold but damp in winter. Dampness encourages the growth of mould and mildew, which can lead to health problems such as asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Signs your house could have a mould problem include:

Prevent mould growing by tackling dampness. Some ways of doing this can be expensive ie insulating the house, putting in an HRV system, replacing ill-fitting windows or using a dehumidifier, but are usually worth it in the long run.

But the strategies below can make a difference to levels of dampness in your house and don’t cost huge amounts.

You may be eligible for free insulation where you live – even if you are a tenant and not the home owner – via the Warm UP New Zealand: Healthy Homes programme.

Criteria includes having a Community Services Card, having people living in the house who have health problems associated with cold, damp housing, such as a respiratory condition, or being under 17 or over 65. The house needs to have been built before 2000 to qualify.

See energywise.govt.nz for more information or call the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority on 0800 749 782. Some local councils also have loan schemes to help ratepayers get their homes insulated.