Dust away the indoor allergy cobwebs

Posted on October 20, 2014

Flowers on bedside table

Five things you didn't know about indoor allergies

It's Indoor Allergy Awareness Week (20 to 26 October 2014), so we reveal the common causes of allergic reactions you may have been chalking up to a common cold.

One in four people suffer with an allergy1, so it's highly likely, as we spend more time indoors, that you or someone you know will be suffering from indoor allergies.

Allergies are not only about sneezing

Dust mites are the most common allergy and asthma trigger and can be found almost everywhere in our homes, but particularly in bedding, carpets, soft furnishings and clothing. You may shudder at the thought of these little critters but take comfort in knowing that dust mites are microscopic. Interestingly, it is often not the mite itself, but the proteins in their droppings, that cause allergies. Did you know that these can affect the air quality indoors and cause congestion, shortness of breath, itchy eyes, headaches and even poor sleep?

Washing covers and bed linen regularly at 60 degrees C will kill the mites. Opening windows to reduce humidity - in which they thrive - and replacing carpets with hardwood floors will all help to keep the mites out of your home.

Domestic pets can be part of the problem

When cats and dogs lick, or groom their fur to clean themselves, they spread an allergen in their saliva that can cause allergic reactions. Inquisitive cats also have a habit of exploring every nook and cranny of a house, so allergens can end up everywhere!

To combat this problem for dogs, some experts recommend feeding your dog with a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids to keep the skin hydrated, meaning they are less likely to shed. To reduce cat allergens, it's best to keep on top of the cleaning by washing soft furnishings, hoovering the carpets and cleaning the cat litter box regularly.

Although there is no such thing as a completely hypoallergenic pet, there are some that cause fewer problems than others, such as: Portuguese water dogs, poodles, Kerry Blue terriers, Devon Rex cats and even geckos!

Tumble dryers have a lot to answer for

Mould spores cause allergic reactions in the form of eczema, itchy eyes, asthma and nasal inflammation. Bathroom walls and showers tend to attract mould because of the damp environment, but other areas of risk can also be found throughout the home - window frames, the underside of wallpaper and even kitchens can be attractive to mould, (thanks to the humidity of the tumble dryer)2.

Good ventilation is key to drying out damp conditions, so put on the extractor fan or open the windows after baths and showers, or when doing the laundry (weather permitting of course).

When running warm water, keep the door closed to prevent steam spreading throughout the house, and invest in a good dehumidifier that keeps humidity at 50% or less. Finally, if you do spot any damp or mouldy areas, clean with water, detergent and 5% bleach.

Could you be allergic to your plants?

Mould is a common allergen, often found in damp environments, such as the bathroom, however, many people forget about their houseplants. Mould can form on leaves or in overwatered soil, releasing spores into the air. When inhaled, these can cause coughing, watering eyes and trouble breathing. But, there's no need to abandon your plants! Just add a thin layer of gravel to the bottom of each pot and keep your plants in a well ventilated area. 

Keeping clean can cause a chemical imbalance

Sore skin and blocked airways can be a reaction to cleaning products. In the colder weather opening the windows to circulate fresh air is pretty unappealing, so we need to clean, polish and buff more frequently to keep on top of the dust. While dust mites are also a problem, a build-up of commercial cleaning materials, air fresheners and scented candles can provoke an allergic reaction too. Gentle products that care for the skin and are light on chemical content are readily available. These recommendations from Allergy UK are a good place to start.

1) http://www.national-awareness-days.com/indoor-allergy-week.html
2) http://www.allergyuk.org/avoiding-respiratory-allergens/mould-allergy-advice