About 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. All allergies start with the same initial problem: the immune system defines a harmless substance as a dangerous pathogen, forcing you to raise your defenses every time you come across those particles in the future.
The reactions to allergens vary, but they’re often quite unpleasant — sneezing, wheezing, swelling, and itching (to name a few). In severe cases, allergens can cause more dangerous symptoms such as respiratory problems, low blood pressure, or painful rashes. Unfortunately, these substances don’t only affect us when we go outside — they’re also present within our homes.
For your health, and the health of your family, make yourself familiar with some of the most common household allergens, and where to find them.
1. Dust and Dust Mites
Tiny insects known as dust mites are the most common cause of household allergens. These microscopic creatures feed on the flakes of human skin that we lose everyday, and they can trigger asthma symptoms. Dust mites thrive best in hot and humid conditions, often within bedrooms and bedding — though they may appear anywhere within a home.
Both dust — made of particles including dust mite feces — and dust mites themselves exist within every home, regardless of how tidy you are. Insulation improvements in double glazing and other techniques have reduced ventilation and air circulation, leading to higher humidity and better environments for dust mite cultivation.
A good way to reduce dust mite and dust contamination in your home is to clean carpets, furniture, drapes, and bedding frequently, and use an air-cleaning device with a special HEPA filter that’s designed to remove tiny particles. If you’re allergic to these little insects, experts recommend removing fabrics such as carpets and extra furniture from home wherever possible, to give dust mites fewer places to gather.
2. Pet Dander
Animal allergens are the second most common cause of allergic symptoms today. While many people believe that allergic reactions are caused by exposure to the animal fur, the response is actually triggered by saliva, skin, and urine. When animals groom themselves, their saliva coats their skin, and these skin cells shed along with loose hairs, creating animal dander. Therefore, even hairless breeds of dogs and cats can cause allergic reactions.
If you’re severely allergic to animal dander, the best thing for your health is to not live with pets at all. Still, many people find ways to coexist with their family pets despite their allergies. Some of the best ways to reduce your chances of suffering from pet-related allergies include:
- Looking for pets who produce less dander
- Washing and grooming cats and dogs regularly
- Confining pets to certain areas within the home that can be easily cleaned
- Hiring vacuuming and cleaning services
- Reducing the number of materials around the home — like carpets and rugs — that can gather pet dander easily
- Using air filters
Indoor mold tends to grow in dark and damp environments, such as showers, bathtubs, basements, attics, and around windows. As basements are most often affected by mold, people suffering with allergies should not rent out a basement as living quarters. It’s also a good idea to avoid setting up spare bedrooms in a basement space.
Use an extractor fan to reduce mold allergies in your home, and install tiling where moisture is most common — carpets in bathrooms will soak up water from showers and condensation, leading to an increased chance of mold. If you don’t have an extractor fan, be sure to open windows when cooking in the kitchen or taking hot showers.
Most people don’t consider pollen as an allergy problem when they’re indoors, but when you go outside you can bring pollen back into the home on your shoes or clothes. Pets are also capable of bringing pollen into the home on their fur, leading some people to believe they are allergic to their pet, when they’re actually allergic to outdoor contaminants.
Good ways to combat the pollen allergen include cleaning vents, HVAC systems, and vents within the home to ensure that pollen doesn’t build up around the house. Bathing pets after they’ve been outside on pollen-rich days can also be helpful.
5. Insect Debris
Just because an insect is dead doesn’t mean that it can’t cause problems — especially for allergy sufferers. In fact, the feces, body parts, and saliva that insects leave behind can be much more harmful to home environments than the insects themselves. Cockroaches are one of the biggest sources of this particular kind of allergen.
In addition to investing in professional treatments for your home, be sure to clean your property and reduce the presence of insects by keeping food in closed containers, removing garbage promptly, and washing cutlery or dishes after meals.
When it comes to recognizing and reducing allergens in the home, the best method is often to use caution and cleanliness wherever possible. HEPA filters and air filtration systems can be extra helpful, and sometimes antihistamines provide an effective way of reducing symptoms while seeking a long-term solution.
Have you suffered with allergens in your home? Which do you think are the most problematic? Let us know in the comments below.