Find out here how allergy appears in your home and the measures you can take around to reduce it. Your health will thank you!
Allergy at home has been increased for the last few years and the number of people facing this problem has also increased greatly.
It usually occurs suddenly and avoidance of triggers is the best treatment for allergy sufferers. These substances are found in abundance in one of the places we spend more time than anywhere in our home: bedroom and mattress. Although we keep our homes spotlessly clean, it is important to regularly clean in a very straightforward manner over the potential sources of the allergens. Keeping a clean sleeping area can avoid allergic bouts by ridding your space of dust mite, bacteria, and other stuff that can infiltrate your sleeping paradise.
This is a clear evidence that a combination of cleaning measures and vaccination has more than 90% efficiency against dust mites and 80% against pollens.
What are allergies at home?
An allergy is the response of the body's immune system to normally harmless inhaled, injected or orally ingested substances, such as pollens, insect bites and house dust mite. In people with allergies, their immune system identifies these substances (allergens) as a ’threat’ and produces an inappropriate response. Most of these allergens are harmless to most people.
Allergies most commonly affect the skin and mucous membranes producing many different symptoms. The main function of the immune system is to protect the human being from environmental agents such as microbes or chemicals. For this task, the immune system makes antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). Everyone makes Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies, but allergic individuals produce a large amount of it in response to one or more substances that are recognized by the immune system as being "enemies".
These foreign substances are called allergens and are many and varied. The most common allergies are those related to production of E (IgE) antibodies, but they are not the only ones.
Contact dermatitis and celiac disease are not caused by IgE. And it would also be necessary not to confuse the hypersensitivity to certain substances with an allergy because it is not related to an immunological mechanism.
What are the causes of allergies at home?
No one is born with allergies and the exact causes are still unknown, but you can inherit genetic tendency to develop them. Allergies are more common in people from families with a history of such reactions.
According to a macro study carried out by The National Institute of Health (NIH), the propensity of individuals to a particular disease is largely determined by genetics. The chances that children develop allergies go up from about 50 percent when one parent is allergic to about 70 percent when both of the parents have allergies. It is also extremely important to know the type of environmental substance that can induce IgE production. For instance, lactose intolerance might be confused with other kinds of milk intolerance, such as milk protein allergies. This is because foods often contain cow milk protein and it is very important to verify that the intolerance is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme lactose. Milk allergies and lactose intolerance are not the same thing.
Impacts of indoor or outdoor air pollution and other environmental factors should be considered, because they have many different effects on the immune system. Indeed, proallergic responses rates have skyrocketed in recent years for this reason, especially in urban areas. Air pollution may also increase the development of pollen allergy through a direct influence on the pollen grains (on their enzymes, plant growth…).
Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produce a warming effect. These factors lead to increased concerns about allergies during the winter months. An unthinkable situation only one decade ago.
How does a home allergy manifest itself and what are causes of it?
As already mentioned, no one is born with allergies but researchers are still not sure what determines to which substances a person with allergic tendencies will ultimately react.
An oversensitive immune system response may be behind some types of allergies but you must be personally exposed to something before you can become allergic to it and the more you are exposed, the more likely you are to develop an allergy to it. Environmental factors also determine how certain substances can easily turn into an allergic reaction.
It is estimated that over 500 substances can cause allergic reactions. The most common are:
- Inhaled substances (eg, pollens, dust mites…)
- Allergies to workplace exposure: allergic reactions to latex, grain, cereals…
- Ingested substances: food (egg, fruit, milk...), drugs (antibiotics, anaesthetic drug)
- Contact allergens such as gold, nickel or perfumes
- Allergic reactions acquired through the insect sting and bites
The symptomatology of the allergy depends on the responsiveness of the organ where the allergic reaction takes place.
Types of allergy are classified according to their symptoms and the body concerned. For instance, if someone's eye is inflamed, it can be called conjunctivitis or pink eye. Allergic rhinitis is a group of symptoms affecting the nose. An inflammation of the skin that produces a red, scaly, itchy rash is known as dermatitis. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction affecting many body systems.
While some people experience these symptoms on a year-round basis, for many people symptoms are seasonal, depending on their particular allergies.
Dust mite allergy
Dust mites are microscopic bugs that live in our homes. In a warm, humid house they replicate very quickly and survive all year. They live on a diet of skin scales naturally shed by humans.
Traditional mattresses are a prime habitat. They get into your mattress and happily grow into large colonies. It’s because dust mites like heat and humidity existing in a conventional mattress. The great majority of mattresses sold in the market fall under this category. Dust mites, by themselves, are not harmful to humans and are invisible to the naked eye but some people have the immune responses that will constitute a dust mite allergy. This allergy is brought about by proteins that are found in the dust mite.
Dr. Philip Tierno, a microbiologist and pathologist at the New York University School of Medicine and author of The Secret Life of Germs, told Business Insider that “there are dust mite feces and dust mite debris, which are allergens. Therefore it's imperative to keep your bed relatively clean so that you don't overexpose your body to these allergens”.
Allergic rhinitis, asthma or conjunctivitis is the result of a reaction in response to an inhaled allergen such as the proteins in the mites and their feces. Mites multiply quickly in high humidity and can take up residence in mattresses and pillows. In fact, your bed can accumulate a horrifying array of dead skin, bacteria, fungus, mites, and even feces. In case of excessive perspiration, the amount of waste is ever increasing.
National Jewish Health Allergist Flavia Hoyte, MD explains what you need to know about dust mite allergy. You can visit her amazing YouTube channel!
Moisture is the most important factor influencing fungi growth indoors. In a warm environment fungi reproduce by fragmentation, budding, or producing spores.
Mold spores travel in the air and cause health problems when they are present in large numbers and people inhale many of them. The build-up of mold on air conditioning filters and humidifiers could spread mold throughout the home. Moisture produced by condensation can be the perfect environment for bacteria, dust mites, mold and mildew to thrive. They are the most common trigger of asthma symptoms.
Allergic reactions to pets are actually caused by pet proteins contained in pet dander, such as microscopic skin flakes, saliva and urine. Hair and other dust from dogs and cats will spread throughout a house. When people inhale these allergens, the resulting allergy primarily manifests with upper respiratory signs: red or watery eyes, runny nose, and sneezing ("hay fever"). Symptoms of rhino-conjunctivitis and asthma can also appear.
In addition to respiratory symptoms, some people also may show signs of atopic dermatitis and hives.
Solutions for allergies at home
The first step to eliminate or decrease your allergic symptoms is to identify the allergens that trigger your reactions and avoid them. Here are some things you can do to avoid home allergies:
When you dust use a damp cloth to avoid spreading dust mites in the air. Keep your home well cleaned. Vacuum often, preferably with a special allergen-removing machine. There are also vacuums with high efficiency particulate air filters (HEPA filter), which trap not only dust but pollen, mold spores, dust mites and pet dander.
Stuffed animals are an excellent breeding ground for dust mites. Keep your pet out of your bedroom. There are a lot of styles of vacuum cleaners which work very well in removing dirt, pet hair, dander…
Control of relative humidity is an important factor to prevent the growth of mold and dust mites. A hygrometer is very useful in measuring the humidity content in the atmosphere and ambient room. Keep humidity levels between 50 and 60 percent to minimize mold growth and dust mite populations. Keep the correct humidity using a dehumidifier if necessary.
Stuffed toys, carpets and tufted textile fabrics often house dust mites. It may be a good idea to try to avoid them.
In addition to these measures, your allergist may be able to prescribe a different type of medication to help tackle symptoms.
Immunotherapy is a preventive treatment for allergic reactions and involves the regular administration of gradually increasing doses of allergen extracts over a period of years. Allergen immunotherapy changes the way the immune system reacts to allergens, by switching off allergy.
Consequently, a combination of a thoroughly cleaning and immunotherapy is effective in controlling symptoms and reducing the requirement for medications. Dust mite allergy responds to immunotherapy in 90 percent of cases and pollen allergies respond in 80 percent.
As already mentioned, a washable mattress is a great way to get rid of dust, skin, dust mite feces and other allergens because it provides a definitive solution to the problem: kill the allergens for life!
Remember, only a doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis. If you have any of the symptoms associated with allergies, you should talk to your doctor.
Darryl C. Zeldin et al. Prevalence of allergic sensitization in the United States: Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). 2005-2006. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (2014). DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2013.12.1071.
Tara Parker-Pope. Weapons Against Dust Mites May Not Be Worth the Cost. The Wall Street Journal. Feb. 18, 2000.
Philip Tierno. The Secret Life of Germs. Observations and Lessons from a Microbe Hunter. Atria Books. 29 oct. 2001.
Sociedad Española de Alergología e Inmunología Clínica (SEAIC).
Jean Bousquet, Richard Lockey, Hans-Jorgen Malling, the WHO panel members.* Allergen immunotherapy: Therapeutic vaccines for allergic diseases A WHO position paper. *The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. October 1998. Volume 102, Issue 4, Pages 558–562.