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April 27, 2021

Five common allergy triggers found in homes

Prevention Allergies

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Woman suffering from allergies on her couch Andrea Piacquadio/

For people with allergies, the symptoms can be debilitating. An allergic reaction occurs when your immune system identifies a foreign substance as harmful. The result is an inflammatory reaction, which can cause symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, rashes, itching, swelling, or even breathing issues. These reactions can range widely in severity, although those with asthma are at particular risk for serious reactions.

Fortunately, there are some easy ways to keep home allergies, and their symptoms, in check. Start by scouring your house for these five common triggers:

1. Dust mites

Invisible to the naked eye, dust mites feed on shed human skin cells and live in warm, humid environments, such as carpets, bedding, and other upholstered items throughout your home. If you have a dust mite allergy, these microscopic mites can cause a runny nose, difficulty breathing, or sneezing.

Want to get them under control? Focus on reducing the number of dust mites in your home with frequent cleaning, especially of carpeting and upholstery where they live most commonly.

2. Pets

Your beloved pet, especially if it’s a cat or dog, is a very common source of home allergies. Pet allergies are often caused by the dander (flakes of dead skin) shed by pets. Any pet with fur can cause an allergic reaction, and you’ll know if you have one due to an increase in symptoms (such as sneezing) when exposed to the animal. Some people also experience hives or other skin symptoms with pet allergies.

What can you do? Aside from frequent allergy shots and regular cleaning, there isn’t much you can do. Keeping a tidy home may be effective for those who experience minor symptoms, but for those with a severe pet allergy, the only option is to reduce or avoid exposure to the animal.

3. Mold

Mold and mildew can grow in any home environments with high humidity — especially bathrooms and the kitchen. Any time the mold is disturbed, it sends spores into the air which can be inhaled and cause allergic reactions. Mold allergies lead to coughing and other airway symptoms.

To reduce the growth of mold, keep the humidity in your home as low as possible and take preventive measures to avoid mold build up. If you have central air, install filters to prevent the spreading of mold spores. You can also improve the air flow between rooms by keeping doors open and by utilizing an exhaust fan in high-humidity areas.

4. Pollen

Hay fever, as pollen allergies are commonly known, is among the most common allergic reactions. It is often associated with outdoor seasonal changes, as trees and other plants release pollen into the air. But indoor plants, and even open windows and doors, can also lead to hay fever symptoms developing in your home. Common signs of hay fever are sneezing, coughing, a runny nose, and irritated eyes.

Is there a cure? While an allergy shot might be an option for hay fever, your best bet is to steer clear of pollen whenever possible. Keep your windows and doors shut during seasonal changes, and consider replacing indoor plants with varieties that don’t create pollen.

5. Food

Mold isn’t the only allergen hiding in your kitchen. Many adults suffer from allergic reactions to shellfish or nuts, and children can suffer from an even wider variety of allergens. If certain foods cause itching or swelling in the mouth, digestive stress, or hives, it may be the result of an allergy. If swelling occurs in the airway making it difficult to breath, seek medical attention immediately. Accidental exposure is always possible for those with food allergies, so check the labels on anything coming into the house.

Do you think you have a food allergy? Schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider to get examined and receive a diagnosis. If you have a food allergy, you’ll want to avoid the allergen in your diet. You should also discuss an allergy action plan with your allergist; for example, when should you seek urgent medical attention, and should you have a prescription epinephrine injection dose available in case of emergency?

The symptoms of an allergic reaction can make for a miserable day or night, but with a little bit of prevention, your home can generally be cleansed of these five common triggers.

Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have, or suspect that you have, a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.

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