For allergy sufferers, the symptoms can be debilitating. An allergic reaction occurs when your immune system identifies a foreign substance as harmful. This results in an inflammatory reaction, which can cause symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, rashes, itching, swelling and even breathing problems. The severity of these reactions can vary widely, but people with asthma are particularly prone to severe reactions.
Fortunately, there are simple ways to control home allergies and their symptoms. Start by checking your home for these five common triggers:
1. Dust mites
Invisible to the naked eye, dust mites feed on dead human skin cells and live in warm, moist environments, such as carpets, bedding and other upholstered items in your home. If you are allergic to dust mites, these microscopic mites can cause a runny nose, difficulty breathing or sneezing.
Your beloved pet, especially if it is a cat or dog, is a very common source of household allergies. Pet allergies are often caused by dander (dead skin flakes) shed by animals. Any furry animal can cause an allergic reaction, and you will know if you have one because of the increase in symptoms (such as sneezing) when you are exposed to the animal. Some people also experience hives or other skin symptoms with pet allergies.
What can you do? Other than frequent allergy shots and regular cleaning, there's not much you can do. Keeping a tidy home can be effective for those with minor symptoms, but for those with a severe pet allergy, the only option is to reduce or avoid exposure to the pet.
Mold can grow in any home environment with high humidity, especially in bathrooms and kitchens. Whenever mold is disturbed, it sends spores into the air that can be inhaled and cause allergic reactions. Mold allergies lead to coughing and other respiratory symptoms.
To reduce mold growth, keep the humidity in your home as low as possible and take preventative measures to avoid mold buildup. If you have central air conditioning, install filters to prevent the spread of mold spores. You can also improve air circulation between rooms by keeping doors open and using an exhaust fan in high humidity areas.
Hay fever, as pollen allergies are commonly known, is one of the most common allergic reactions. It is often associated with seasonal outdoor changes, as trees and other plants release pollen into the air. But indoor plants, and even open windows and doors, can also cause hay fever symptoms to appear in your home. Common signs of hay fever include sneezing, coughing, runny nose and irritated eyes.
Is there a cure? While an allergy shot may be an option for hay fever, your best bet is to avoid pollen as much as possible. Keep your windows and doors closed during seasonal changes, and consider replacing houseplants with varieties that do not produce pollen.
Mold is not the only allergen lurking in your kitchen. Many adults suffer allergic reactions to shellfish or nuts, and children can suffer from an even wider variety of allergens. If certain foods cause itching or swelling of the mouth, digestive stress or hives, it may be an allergy. If swelling occurs in the airways, making it difficult to breathe, seek medical attention immediately. Accidental exposure is always a possibility for people with food allergies, so check the labels on everything that comes into the house.
Think you have a food allergy? Make an appointment with a health care professional to be examined and diagnosed. If you have a food allergy, you should avoid the allergen in your diet. You should also discuss an allergy action plan with your allergist; for example, when should you seek emergency medical attention and should you have a prescription dose of injectable epinephrine in case of emergency?
The symptoms of an allergic reaction can make for a miserable day or night, but with a little prevention, your home can usually be rid of these five common triggers.