You step inside your house and the symptoms hit – itchy, watery eyes, congestion, a drippy nose with watery discharge and sneezing. Could it be due to indoor allergens?How is the air quality of your home?
Nowadays, millions of people have certain sensitivities to everything, from pet danders and dust to the mites and pollen. The secret to winning your battle against sensitivities and allergens is to recognise you have them and identify the trigger.
Good thing there are plenty of home remedies you can do to manage or control indoor allergens. Making your home allergen-free is not impossible.
In this article, you will learn the most common indoor allergens at home and the different ways to control indoor allergens.
The 4 Most Common Indoor Allergens
Every home harbours potential allergens that can be a disturbance to your family’s health. Below are the four most common indoor allergen triggers found in most homes.
Mold and mildew grow in humid areas of your home. When they thrive and take hold, they shed little spores, which may trigger reactions such as respiratory problems and lots of sinus drainage. Indoor mold may be a concern during winter months, when mold thrives due to moisture — whether it is in your crawl space, on basement wall, the bathroom tile or a damp carpet. You may not know that there’s mold proliferation in your home but if you are sensitive to it, your body will react with irritated eyes, stuffy nose and wheezing. Apart from mold spores, molds can produce volatile organic compounds (VOC) which can irritate the nose, throat and eyes. (see image on the right)
- Dust Mites
Dust mites is the most common indoor allergen that can trigger unpleasant reactions. (see the image to distinguish dust mites from bed bugs) Dust mites belong to the family of spiders, ticks an chiggers called arachnids. They are resilient creatures that live in warm, humid places. They feed on the shed of dead skin and danders found in dust, so they love to live in places where there are humans and animals. They are not parasites and they don’t bite or sting, can’t spread diseases or burrow into our bodies. They are harmful only to certain people sensitive to them.
Trigger reactions to dust mite vary, from mild to severe cases. Mild cases may cause watery eyes, sneezing and occasional runny nose. But for severe cases, the symptoms are chronic and the person may exhibit congestion, cough, persistent sneezing or severe asthma attack.
Cockroach allergen come part different body parts of cockroach. Cockroach allergen reaction may include stuffy nose and skin rash. Asthma-like symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and congestion may also manifest for people sensitive to cockroach.
Cockroaches like to eat include newspapers, food and paints, book binding materials and wallpaper pastes. They usually live in moist areas such as in ‘sweating’ pipes and standing water and in warm hiding places like under the sink, floor cracks, grocery bags and in stacks of books or newspapers.
Pets can be a trigger if you are sensitive to them. The most common household pets are cats, birds, dogs, rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs. Larger animals such as horses, cows and goats, despite the fact they’re kept outdoor, may pose problems too.
Their skin flakes or dander, as well as urine and saliva, may cause trigger reactions. animal hair or fur is not really considered as a significant allergen, however the hair can collect dust, pollen, mold spores and other allergens. Both feathers and bird droppings can increase indoor allergen exposure. Sensitive people should not use down comforters or feather pillows. Bird dropping can also be a source of dust, bacteria and mold, which also applies to other caged pets such as hamsters, mice and gerbils.
Natural Ways to Control Indoor Allergens
The best way to prevent sensitivity reactions is to refrain from the trigger. Allergens inside the house can trigger asthma, eczema and hay fever, along with other common symptoms such as itchy skin, sneezing, coughing, runny nose and watery eyes. Reducing home allergens will help keep sensitivity reactions in control.
Below is some practical advice on how to control indoor allergens.
Some indoor allergen control remedies may require you to re-think your interior design choices; others must be followed consistently and regularly to have a lasting and positive effect. If you or someone in your home is sensitive to any of the above mentioned household allergens, here are some ways to reduce, and maybe even eliminate different trigger reactions, and improve your well-being:
Control Indoor Allergens Tip #1: Keep the air clean.
Provide good ventilation. Do not allow cigarette smoke in your home, and open windows or use extractor fans and air vents to help keep the air clean. Choose radiant heating, which does not trap dust, and avoid open fires and fan-forced heating.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean indoor air and control indoor allergens.
You will need:
- Cotton rags
- Bucket of fresh water for rinsing rags
- HEPA filter (to trap tiny particles that other vacuums miss)
- Hypoallergenic or clean cotton
- Mattress and box spring covers
- Carpet treatment
- Laundry additive (if your water is set below 55 Degrees C)
- Anti-allergen dusting treatment
- HEPA filtering machine
- Clean when the sensitive person is absent and will not be affected by disturbed dust or dust-mites. Also, remove any animals from the house. The sensitive person should be kept out for 2 hours after the cleaning is completed, to allow everything to settle.
- Clean or replace filters on vacuum and filtering machine.
- Remove all small items and wash them. After washing, rinse stuffed toys with anti-allergen product.
- Strip beds and wash bedding in water heated to at least 55 degrees C.
- Clean one room at a time.
- If available, turn the HEPA filtering machine on high in the bedroom of the sensitive person while you clean it, and leave it on until bedtime.
- Carefully wipe all surfaces with a damp cloth or oil mop, if possible moistened with anti-allergen product.
- Wipe from top down – walls, door frames, window frames and sills, mirrors, furniture, then floors.
- If possible, clean the bed of the sensitive person outside. If you can’t, be sure to wipe all hard parts of the bed, including frame and box springs.
- Vacuum carpeting thoroughly, and apply carpet treatment.
- In the bedroom of the sensitive person, cover the box springs, mattress, pillows, and any other bedding that cannot be washed with clean, washable, hypoallergenic or cotton casings.
- Leave the HEPA machine on high in the bedroom of the person with allergies until night time, for added protection.
- Close the door after cleaning each room to prevent spread of allergens from other rooms.
- Repeat the process once every week to reduce occurrence of allergy.
Control Indoor Allergens Tip #2: Keep a mould-free house.
Check for musty smelling corners or any damp areas that may develop mould. If there is mould in any part of the house, check for a source of the dampness, like pipe leakages or walls badly insulated from garden soil. Avoid flower beds and other soils touching the walls of the house if they are not properly insulated, as they favour dampness. Treat these areas as soon as possible, as exposure to mould can seriously damage your health.
Control Indoor Allergens Tip #3: Use low allergen plants near the house.
One common cause of sensitivity is pollen released from flowers. To prevent allergens from blowing in windows and doors, do not plant trees or flowers that release pollen into the air, such as rye grass, weeds, and other questionable plants, close to the house. Also, avoid using pesticides.
Control Indoor Allergens Tip #4: Choose natural, organic or low-allergen cleaners.
Plain white vinegar and baking soda can effectively take care of many cleaning needs such as floors, sinks and tiles, and they leave the house smelling fresh as well. Avoid strong chemicals, acids or alkalis.
Control Indoor Allergens Tip #5: Remove all carpeting.
Carpets hold dust – a very common trigger, no matter how often or well they are vacuumed. Hard surface floors are much easier to keep free of dust and dust mites. New synthetic carpeting also emits volatile compounds several years after their installation, from plastics and solvents used in the fabric and installation, which can worsen chemical sensitivities.
Control Indoor Allergens Tip #6: Treat carpets regularly with tannic acid.
If you cannot or prefer not to remove carpeting, vacuum regularly. Regular treatment with tannic acid (the same acid found in black tea) also helps control dust mites.
Control Indoor Allergens Tip #7: Keep animals outside.
Animals may carry allergens in their fur or feathers. People sensitive to dust often exhibit trigger reactions to animal furs.
Control Indoor Allergens Tip #8: Remove dust traps.
These include soft furnishings with folds, ruffles or drapery, heavy or pleated drapes, cushions, deep upholstery, knickknacks, books, fireplaces and venetian blinds. Instead, opt for furniture that is easily wiped, or at least with simple upholstering, and plain, light curtains.
Control Indoor Allergens Tip #9: Remove sources of volatile compounds.
These are chemicals released by plastic and plastic materials, such as furnishings, vinyls and other floor and furniture coverings. They may create chemical sensitivities or aggravate sensitivity reactions.
Control Indoor Allergens Tip #10: Eliminate clutter.
A cluttered room contains more dust traps, and is harder to keep clean. Furnish and decorate with a light touch. If possible, have only one bed in a bedroom.
Control Indoor Allergens Tip #11: Choose natural or hypoallergenic, unscented cosmetics.
Shampoos, body washes, mascara, eye makeup remover and other cosmetics can cause allergies such as hives, rashes and dermatitis. Choose hypoallergenic and/or organic whenever possible.
Control Indoor Allergens Tip #12: Use only bedding and curtains that can be washed at 55 degrees C (130 degrees F) or more.
Lower temperatures will not destroy dust mites. Wash all bedding and curtains weekly. Special bedding for sensitive people can be found, but they still require weekly washing.
Control Indoor Allergens Tip #13: Encase the mattress and box springs of a sensitive person in an allergen-proof cover.
There are nowadays mattresses made of springs and cotton designed for health conscious and chemical sensitive people.
Control Indoor Allergens Tip #14: Create a low-fragrance environment.
Over 80% of fragrances today are synthetic, and can cause sensitivity reactions. Fragrance sensitivity is a major contributor to multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) syndrome, and can be triggered by fragrances in cleaners, varnishes, paints, air fresheners, deodorants, detergents, dry cleaned clothes, natural oils and perfumes.
In situations where serious sensitivity symptoms occur, it may be necessary to clean the house thoroughly.
While the aforementioned ways to control indoor allerge can help alleviate sensitivities and asthma, researchers have suggested that these conditions may also result from excessive cleaning. Some exposure to microbes may actually reduce the development of trigger reaction.
In case of strongly reactive sensitivities and debilitating chemical sensitivities, clean the house thoroughly following these principles: Do an initial complete cleaning to remove allergens that already exist; then, repeat the process weekly to maintain the environment.
If you would like more information about creating a healthy home environment, I am happy to assist you.
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