Home is where we should feel safe and comfortable. However, it’s another story for people with asthma and allergies. It’s hard to feel comfort if you’re surrounded by triggers and allergens. Our houses will always have dust mites, animal dander, or even molds that trigger allergic reactions. Read along to learn more about indoor allergies and how to allergy-proof your home.
Types of Indoor Allergies
Every year, millions of people struggle with indoor allergies. Your home can be a haven of indoor allergens, ranging from the usual suspects like dust and pollens to rare ones like insect droppings if you have pest problems. Among them, here are four of the leading causes for indoor allergies:
- Dust Mites. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, dust mites trigger allergies and asthma attacks. Their primary habitats are pillows, mattresses, carpeting, and furniture. Dust mites cluster in areas where there are many dead skin flakes of humans and thrive at high temperatures.
- Mold. High humidity conditions promote mold growth. They grow in damp areas such as the basement or bathroom. Mold and mildew release tiny spores, which trigger indoor allergies.
- Pet Dander. Dander comes from the pet skin of cats, dogs, or other animals. These specks can set off an allergic reaction to anyone who has a pet dander allergy. Furthermore, proteins found in the saliva, urine, and feces of cats, dogs, and other pets can pose an allergy risk to some people. It sticks to clothes, shoes, and hair.
- Cockroach droppings are similar to ground coffee or black pepper. It is where the potential allergen is found that triggers indoor allergies. Among other conditions, cockroaches aggravate asthma. While keeping a clean house can help reduce allergies, getting rid of cockroach feces can be a challenge due to their ability to hide in many places. The only way to avoid cockroach allergies in the home is to eradicate them.
Indoor Allergies Symptoms
Allergen triggers vary from person to person. Each individual’s symptoms of indoor allergies are similar to those of many allergic reactions.
- A stuffy, itchy nose
- Clear nasal discharge
- Itchy, watery, swollen eyes
- Scratchy throat
- Shortness of breath
- Itchy, red skin
- Pet allergens can cause symptoms right after exposure, or they can build slowly for 8-12 hours or even persist for weeks. It can be mild or severe.
Meanwhile, those with allergic rhinitis may experience symptoms similar to colds, such as a runny nose, watery eyes, or sneezing when in contact with tobacco smoke. It is also possible they have both smoke allergies and allergic rhinitis. Having both of these allergies can be frustrating.
A Look at Indoor Allergy Treatments
Avoiding allergens is the first step to prevent symptoms. On the other hand, there may be other treatments that can help alleviate symptoms after exposure. These allergy treatments are widely available in pharmacies.
- Over-the-counter antihistamines (OTC). OTC antihistamines treat allergy symptoms. They relieve the symptoms of an allergic reaction by combating the body’s release of histamine. OTC antihistamines have two types: first-generation and second-generation. First-generation OTC oral antihistamines are cheaper and the oldest group. They’re sedating, so you might feel sleepy after taking them. Also, their effect wears off quickly, so you need to have frequent dosing. In contrast, Second-generation OTC antihistamines are the new types of medicines. They ease allergy symptoms without making you feel drowsy.
- Decongestants. They relieve nasal congestion by reducing inflammation.
Allergy immunotherapy treatment is also effective, but it’s available only to those who consult their physician. It also takes three years to complete this course of treatment. Regular doctor visits are essential since they will administer the allergy shots.
How to prevent allergies at home?
Keeping your home clean is vital to fending off yourself and your family from indoor allergies. To reduce allergens and allergy-proof your home, here are a few easy guidelines:
The bedroom is the dust mites’ favorite place because it’s warm, humid, and full of dead human skin cells for them to eat. They may seem like an invisible enemy, but there are ways to eliminate them. Let’s start by:
- Wash your beddings regularly.
- Wrap pillows in allergy-proof covers. Whenever possible, wash synthetic pillows in hot water monthly, and dispose of any old pillows.
- Make sure to wash sheets, pillowcases, and blankets once every week in hot water. Take out the comforter and wash or cover it. Switch to synthetic bedding.
- Replace your old mattress to reduce allergens and provide a better sleep environment.
- Install hardwood or linoleum flooring and washable area rugs instead of carpeting.
- Do not use wool blankets or foam-rubber cushions, pillows, or mattresses that will attract mold.
- Be sure to shut the bedroom door to keep pets from entering. Remember, your pet is a walking dust mop and shed their dander everywhere.
- In every bedroom, install air purifiers to regularly filter out airborne allergens that may cling to your curtains and blinds while you sleep.
- If you need an air filter, choose one with a HEPA or small particle allergen filter.
- Be sure the material of your armchairs, nightstands, and bedside tables is easy to clean, such as leather, wood, metal, or plastic.
Next Stop, the Living Room
A living room is a place where many people gather. If none of the people in your household suffer from allergies, you still need to manage allergens in the living room. Keeping your living room free from indoor allergens can make your house a safe and comfortable place to spend time. You can follow these steps:
- Clean and sweep your floors daily.
- Wash floor mats and rugs weekly.
- Try vacuuming your carpets once or twice a week.
- Replace upholstered sofas and chairs with metal, wood, plastic, or leather ones.
- To prevent dust from accumulating, dust items in the living room regularly, such as electric fans and furniture.
- Keep all outdoor shoes by the door. Do this to avoid outdoor allergens from coming inside.
- Pets love to sleep on sofas in the living room. Bathe your pets often to lower allergens in their dander.
- Use air conditioning and close windows. Make sure window frames and sills are free of mold and condensation.
Your kitchen has lots of food and moisture, making it an ideal home for cockroaches and mold. Well, it doesn’t indicate that your house is dirty. Almost anywhere is a breeding ground for cockroaches, while mold grows in moist areas. To get rid of these indoor allergens, you need to keep your environment clean and safe.
- Scrub kitchen sinks and faucets clean to prevent mold growth.
- Fix leaks in faucets to avoid mold and cockroaches from forming.
- Take out the trash. Vacuum and sweep the floors after meals.
- Make sure the kitchen garbage cans have lids.
- Clean under stoves, refrigerators, and toasters to prevent crumbs from accumulating.
- Always wipe off stains on kitchen surfaces.
- Keep your refrigerator dry by wiping away excessive moisture.
- Throw away moldy or expired food.
- Keep all food in cabinets and on countertops in glass, plastic, or metal containers.
Don’t forget your bathroom too
The bathroom may not attract dust mites in large numbers, but it may attract other allergens like mold and cockroaches. Use the tips below to minimize the presence of these allergens.
- Use a mold-killing cleaning product when cleaning the bathtub, shower, and faucets.
- Ventilate the room well while cleaning. Rinse surfaces thoroughly afterward.
- Buy curtains with antifungal properties or wash your shower curtains every month. Mold can also thrive on shower curtains.
- Clean plumbing fixtures from mold. Repair leaks.
- Make use of vents in your bathroom to improve air circulation. In this way, the walls can dry after using the shower, preventing the growth of mold and mildew.
- Pick bathroom floor remodeling materials that are resistant to mold growth. You can choose from ceramics, vinyl, cork, or hardwood.
Finally, the Basement Area
Basements are rife with allergens of all kinds. It’s prone to cockroaches, mold spores, pet dander, and dust mites. All your efforts in cleaning may come to waste if you forget the basement. Start your basement cleaning journey:
- Identify and repair any leaks or sources of water damage.
- If you want to improve the drainage in your basement, hire a contractor to install a sump pump or a French drain.
- Basements can sometimes be humid, which causes condensation on the walls. To reduce humidity, use a dehumidifier.
- It’s essential to seal windows and doors that lead into the basement. If not, then this can lead to water problems, causing mold. Repair seals, or caulk the cracks between windows and doors yourself.
BVAllergy Can Help
Making changes in cleaning your house can help minimize your allergy symptoms and control them. By allergy-proofing your home, your family can breathe away from indoor allergies. However, see an allergist if your allergies become worse even inside the house.
Paul Jantzi has spent more than 13 years serving the south-central Texas region as an allergist. He is board-certified in allergy and immunology with prior specialty training in pediatrics and internal medicine. Schedule a meeting with him to learn more about immunotherapy and how it can help with your allergy symptoms.