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Anyone with allergies knows they can be a huge source of discomfort and inconvenience. Day-to-day activities may be hampered by constant sniffles, sneezing, and tearing or watery eyes. Numerous substances at home and in the environment can trigger an allergy attack and even worsen pre-existing asthma. Luckily, there are simple but effective measures you can take to allergy-proof your home and ensure a cleaner and healthier living environment.
Allergies occur when foreign bodies cause the immune system to overreact to substances (allergens) that are usually harmless to other people1. Allergic reactions differ depending on how you come in contact with the allergen. Usually, the skin, airways, and mucous membranes are affected. Once you come into contact with an allergen, the symptoms usually manifest quickly and may take several hours to days to subside. Symptom severity also varies from a mild inconvenience to a huge disturbance in your everyday life.
Numerous substances can trigger allergies, some of which you might not even be aware of. At home, the main sources of allergens include2:
Knowing the most common sources of allergies will give you a better idea of the modifications that need to be made to ensure a healthier environment.
This list tells us that allergens can not only be in the air, but can also settle on frequently used surfaces like your furniture and bedding3. Closed and damp environments with poor ventilation provide the ideal environment for fungus and mold to grow, which can become a problematic source of allergens4. Pets may also trigger allergies through their fur, saliva, urine/feces, and blood.
Clearly, allergens can come from multiple sources that all need to be addressed in order to effectively allergy-proof your home5.
The cornerstone of allergy management is to avoid your triggers6. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do at home to do this and make your home more comfortable while providing cleaner air. Here are some general tips to get rid of potential sources of allergies in your home7:
These suggestions will hopefully make a significant impact in your home, making it allergen-free. While these are just general tips, there are also specific measures you can take to target certain allergens that are the most prominent in your home.
The most common seasonal and non-seasonal allergens are dust mites and cockroaches, pet dander, and pollen9. These can not only trigger your allergies, but it can exacerbate asthma as well10. The method of managing these troublesome allergens is to minimize possible areas where they may collect and maintain as clean an environment as possible. Here are specific strategies to target the three most common indoor allergens.
Commonly found in house dust, dust mites are microscopic pests that feed on dead skin and dander of both humans and pets11. They usually inhabit mattresses, bedding, upholstered furniture, carpets, and curtains. Cockroaches are also another common allergen, with research suggesting a link between their presence and increased severity of asthma symptoms12. Urban areas and older dwellings are where you more often find cockroaches.
To prevent these pests from triggering allergies at home, here are some tips to effectively eradicate them13:
While it may not be realistic to completely eliminate these pests, hopefully, these measures will significantly reduce the presence of dust mites and cockroaches in your home.
Millions of people around the world own pets despite being allergic to them14. Cats and dogs are sometimes culprits of allergy attacks due to their fur and the substances that get trapped in them. They can cause sneezing, a runny nose, and red, itchy eyes. Allergies are often caused by microscopic proteins from the dead skin shed by pets. These tend to spread when dogs and cats lick themselves, and the allergens can be present in their saliva, urine/feces, and blood.
Because pets can easily spread allergens that can remain on surfaces for months, it is important to clean the house regularly. These are strategies you can take to reduce allergies from pets15:
More than 50% of households have a dog, cat, or both16. This makes trigger control all the more necessary in order to have an allergy-proof home.
Pollen is a powdery substance that plants produce as part of their reproductive process17. While it is necessary for flowers, trees, and grass to flourish, it can cause sneezing, congestion, and watery eyes for people allergic to it. To prevent pollen-related allergies, here are strategies you can employ18:
Pollen levels vary throughout the day, but the pattern depends on the species. You need to know whether you are allergic to grass, tree, or another type of pollen. This will indicate what time of day it is safer to go out, and what times of day should be avoided.
This prevents pollen from entering your home. Use air conditioners to keep cool; window and attic fans can easily spread allergens.
Pets can transport pollen from outdoors so it is recommended to wash them regularly.
Allergies can range from mild discomfort to a huge nuisance. Simple but effective measures rooted in maintaining a clean and dry environment can greatly reduce the number of allergens at home. Hopefully, the measures described in this article will allergy-proof your home as well as improve indoor air quality. Taking care of your respiratory health is very important and this includes managing your allergies as well.References
Mikaela is a dentistry clinician at the University of the Philippines.