Common Allergens Inside Your Home
Identify common indoor allergy triggers and discover ways to keep your allergies in check, so you can enjoy the comforts of your home all year-round.
Your home should be a place of refuge. This is especially important during the pandemic, when it is safer staying home than going outside. But for people who are prone to indoor allergies , it can cause their allergy symptoms to flare up. These allergy symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose, nasal congestion, and itchy or watery eyes, and even itchy skin, redness and hives . These symptoms are triggered by common allergens found indoors.
Indoor allergies can happen all-year round. However, indoor allergies can be especially troublesome during the wet season, when people tend to spend more time indoors.
Indoor allergy symptoms
While indoor allergy symptoms can vary from person to person, here are some of the most common ones:
Allergy testing by an allergist can assess whether your symptoms are caused by pollen, mold or another substance.
Sources of indoor allergies
Allergies are caused by allergens, which are tiny particles like dust mites , mold spores, and pet dander . Allergy testing by an allergist can help assess which allergen is causing your symptoms. Common allergens spread through the air, and settle on various surfaces in your home, like the floor and furniture. While there might be more allergens on surfaces than in the air, these may float in the air when disturbed by dusting or sweeping.
The main sources of indoor allergens include 1:
- Stuffed toys
- Pillows and bedding
- Damp areas
- Indoor plants
Keeping a furry friend indoors can cause you to suffer an allergic reaction, such as a runny nose, and itchy or watery eyes. However, it is not their fur, but rather the proteins found in the animal’s dander (dead skin cells), saliva, or urine that triggers your allergy .2 These allergy-triggering particles stick to pet fur, which we tend to touch frequently. On top of that, these particles are so lightweight that they can be transported in the air, and onto your clothes and hair. Most people tend to associate pet-related allergies with pet dander from a cat or dog. However, dander can also come from other pets, such as hamsters, rabbits, gerbils and guinea pigs, amongst others.
Tips for Pet Allergy Sufferers
- Have a plan
If you are prone to pet-related allergies and you are planning to visit friends or family, it is advisable for you to ask them in advance if they have a furry pet at home. This helps you be prepared with allergy medicine should your symptoms start to flare up during your next visit.
- Establish pet-free areas
Keep pets out of your bedroom and out of certain rooms in your house that you might be in often, like the living room. Discourage your pets from getting onto couches or beds, as their dander can remain on these surfaces and trigger your allergies.
- Rinse and repeat
Giving your pet regular baths can help to minimize dander on their bodies.
- Wash your hands
After touching a pet, avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose until you've had a chance to wash your hands thoroughly.
- Choose pets wisely
Cats tend to trigger more allergies than dogs.3 This is because they are prone to a constant licking of their fur or skin, thus spreading allergens from their saliva onto their bodies. However, it is important to note that animals who don't shed, can also cause you to suffer an allergic reaction. As an alternative, people who suffer frequent allergies should consider keeping fishes, hermit crabs, iguanas, or turtles as pets instead.
Another one of the common allergens found at home are dust mites . Dust mites can be found in the house dust which accumulates all around your home. Symptoms of dust mite allergy are similar to hay fever , including sneezing, and runny nose. These microscopic creatures live off our dead skin cells, hiding in household fabrics, such as pillows, mattresses, upholstered furniture, blankets and carpets.
Dust mites absorb water from the humidity in the air. This is why dust mites are especially prevalent in the more humid areas of your house, or during the dry season. If you currently live in an area that has a warm and humid climate, dust mites can be found all-year round. 4
Tips for Dust Allergy Sufferers
- Reduce dust clumps
Wash all bedding and blankets at least once a week in hot water (at least 54°C).5 Use a vacuum that is equipped with a HEPA filter or double-vacuum bag. Dust surfaces with a damp sponge and mop the floors regularly. Be sure to wear a protective mask and gloves when cleaning to minimize your exposure to dust allergens.
- Check the label
Sweat can cause pillows, mattresses, and furniture with rubber foam to develop mold . Therefore, it is important for you to check the label of your bedding and bedding covers for more information on how to care for these products effectively. You should also use anti- allergen mattress and box spring covers, and anti-allergen pillowcases.
- Take it out
If possible, remove wall-to-wall carpeting from all the rooms in your house. Dust mites are often found in carpeting.
The recommended humidity level of your home should be between 30% and 60%.6 A hygrometer is an instrument that is used to measure the humidity of the air and can be easily purchased from most hardware stores. When it’s humid, place a dehumidifier in a damp area of your home to keep the humidity level in check.
A mold allergy is triggered by microscopic mold spores which float in the air like pollen . Indoor mold tends to shed spores throughout the year, and can be found lurking in damp spots, such as basements, bathrooms, laundry rooms, lofts, refrigerators and windowsills. Given the fact that mold thrives in damp spaces, mold allergies may occur frequently in countries that are typically humid and experience regular rainfall during the wet season. This includes the Philippines, especially from the months of June to October7.
Tips for Mold Allergy Sufferers
- Clean house
You can prevent mold growth by cleaning typically damp areas in your house, like the bathroom, laundry room and basement regularly. Avoid leaving damp laundry in the washing machine for a prolonged period of time. Wash shower curtains, and bathroom tiles, grouting, and fixtures with anti-mold cleaning solutions. Use only machine-washable bathmats in the bathroom.
- Keep humidity in check
Keep the humidity level in your home at around 50% to prevent mold growth. Use air conditioners and dehumidifiers to keep the humidity level in check. Alternatively, you can also opt to use an exhaust fan in the kitchen or the bathroom to do away with steam or moisture as a result of cooking and showering.
- Don’t forget the fridge
Keep the refrigerator clean and empty its water pan on a regular basis. Get rid of rotting or expired foods promptly to help minimize mold growth.
- Let there be light
Sunlight kills mold, which is why you should keep the curtains, shades, or blinds in your home open throughout the day.
- Check the label
Sweat can cause pillows, mattresses and furniture with rubber foam to develop mold. Therefore, it is important for you to check the label of your bedding and bedding covers for more information on how to care for these products effectively before use.
When allergy symptoms flare up, consider using antihistamine medication like Loratadine (Claritin®), which works in as fast as 15 minutes9, is non-drowsy10,11 vs. first-generation antihistamines and cetirizine, and lasts up to 24 hours11.
IF SYMPTOMS PERSIST, CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR.
ASC Ref. Code: B251P032922CS
- Control Indoor Allergens to Improve Indoor Air Quality. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Reviewed in September 2015. Retrieved on November 26, 2021 from https://www.aafa.org/control-indoor-allergens/
- Pet Allergy. The Mayo Clinic. Published on August 04, 2021. Retrieved on November 26, 2021 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pet-allergy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352192
- Allergic to your cat? Easy tips to prevent and control your allergy. The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Retrieved on December 8, 2021 from https://vet.osu.edu/sites/vet.osu.edu/files/legacy/documents/pdf/education/mph-vph/allergic%20to%20your%20cat.pdf
- Dust mite allergies. The Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on November 26, 2021 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dust-mites/symptoms-causes/syc-20352173
- Allergy-proof your home. The Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on November 26, 2021 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/allergies/in-depth/allergy/art-20049365
- Indoor humidity and your family's health. Koster, L. National Asthma Council Australia. Published on February 16, 2016. Retrieved on November 26, 2021 from https://www.nationalasthma.org.au/news/2016/indoor-humidity
- Mold Allergy. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Retrieved on November 26, 2021 from https://www.aafa.org/mold-allergy/
- What is a skin allergy?. Intermountain Healthcare. Published 2018. Retrieved on February 3, 2022 from https://intermountainhealthcare.org/services/dermatology/conditions/skin-allergy/
- Sur, Denise K C, and Monica L Plesa. “Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis .” American family physician vol. 92,11 (2015): 985-92.
- Kawauchi, H.; Yanai, K.; Wang, D.-Y.; Itahashi, K.; Okubo, K. Antihistamines for Allergic Rhinitis Treatment from the Viewpoint of Nonsedative Properties. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2019, 20, 213. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20010213
- Haria, Malini, et al. “Loratadine.” Drugs, vol. 48, no. 4, 1994, pp. 617–637., https://doi.org/10.2165/00003495-199448040-00009.