Do You Have Gutter Guests?

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Don’t look now, but there’s a pool party at your house, and you’re not invited. Not unless you want to get out the ladder, rubber gloves, and anything else you use to clean out your roof gutters In others words, be a party pooper!

All joking aside, the leaves, twigs, and other debris you never cleared from the gutter last fall have clogged the gutters. As a result, rainfall and snowmelt can’t flow through the downspouts, and the stagnant water that’s accumulating there has become a breeding ground for all sorts of toxic agents.

What’s in Your Clogged Gutters (Clogged)

Come spring, the water in your clogged gutters will start to heat up, providing a perfect environment for a community of organisms and bacteria, all of whom pose some sort of health risk for you and your family. And the longer the water stands there, the more, the merrier.

Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew get a start in damp environments like that of your clogged gutters, but they never stay put. And so, before long, they will find their way into your attic, and from there into your ceilings. The dark spots you’ll begin to notice are unsightly, but worse than that, they’re compromising the air quality in the room and dispersing spores into the air you breathe. Should you or any of your loved ones be allergic to mold, you may experience reactions ranging from red itchy eyes, a runny nose, and bouts of sneezing, to a persistent skin rash, and for anyone with asthma, severe breathing problems.

Do You Have Gutter Guests?


As the water in your clogged gutters begins to heat up, it becomes a perfect environment for bacteria. As you know, some types of bacteria, like E.coli, staphylococcus, and streptococcus emit toxins that cause gastrointestinal problems, sore throats, and ear and sinus ear infections. But one type of bacteria, legionella pneumophila feeds on bacteria and algae and thrives in temperatures between 68 and 122. And while it’s been found in towers that supply water to large apartment buildings and hotels, it’s been found in soggy clogged roof gutters. You may know it as Legionnaire’s Disease,

Legionnaire’s Disease

Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia that inflames the lungs, is caused by inhaling bacteria found in water and dirt, both of which abound in clogged gutters. Its symptoms start with muscle aches, headaches, and fevers as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit, but if left untreated, it progresses to coughs, chest pains, breathing problems, and gastrointestinal disruptions. In severe cases, confusion and other mental disturbances can result.

Most people recover, but some develop potentially fatal complications like septic shock and kidney or respiratory failure. If you or anyone in your family is a smoker, suffers from lung or kidney disease, diabetes, or cancer, or has a weakened immune system, you are at greater risk.

Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Every year the news is full of reports concerning virulent outbreaks of Zika, and West Niles Disease, and if you travel to the tropics you may encounter malaria and dengue.  What these all have in common, in addition to being viruses, is that they’re spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. And because female mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, you are very likely to encounter such mosquitoes skimming across the stagnant water in your clogged gutters.

Heart Worm Disease

And by the way, you and your family members are not the only ones at risk of developing a mosquito-born disease. Your dog or cat can incur potentially deadly heartworm disease should he be bitten by a mosquito who is carrying heartworm microfilariae which will develop into heartworm larvae in your dog’s bloodstream, and when left untreated can lead to heart disease, lung failure, and major organ damage.

In order to prevent any of these mosquito-borne, potentially deadly diseases. You can follow health directives to dump out any water collected in trash cans, buckets, or flowerpot saucers; empty pet bowl when not in use, and forego birdbaths and rain barrels during hot weather breeding seasons, But all these are for naught, if you leave water collecting in your cloggd gutters,

Better Late than Never

It may be too late for your annual fall gutter clean-out. But that doesn’t mean you can’t move it up to number one on your list of spring or summer must-do chores. But you’re one of the millions of people who can’t bring yourself to climb up there and muck about in the organic mess, you can call a gutter cleaning service. You can also solve it once and for all by swapping out your open-top or half-round gutters for a hooded leaf-free gutter system.

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Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an the author of "Getting Laid" and "Getting Baked". A sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky, wen she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s writing about country living and artisan culture.
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