Fighting Indoor Allergies
Mayo Clinic Health System combats indoor allergens
Many people who suffer from seasonal allergies find relief as the weather cools and the first frost of autumn arrives. However, others struggle year-round with symptoms because they suffer from indoor allergies. An allergic reaction is your body’s immune system overreacting to a substance in your environment. Your home, school and workplace contain causes of indoor, environmental allergies. These inhaled triggers can include dust, animal dander, feathers, pollen and mold spores. Indoor allergy symptoms vary, but many people experience sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, cough, itchy and watery eyes, and skin rashes.
Dust mite allergy
Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture and carpets. No matter how clean your house is, it’s impossible to completely get rid of dust mites. They are generally harmless, unless you are allergic to them. However, you can limit contact if you:
- Put special dust-proof covers on pillows, mattresses and box springs.
- Limit the number of stuffed animals kept in bedrooms or wash them with the bedding. They can also be frozen and then vacuumed.
- Wash bedding weekly in hot water.
- Use a dehumidifier to keep the humidity low in your home.
- Regularly remove dust on surfaces.
- Remove carpeting on the floor, as it provides a comfortable habitat for dust mites.
- Vacuum regularly with a high-efficiency particulate, or HEPA, filter or a double-layered bag, and possibly wear a dust mask. Or ask someone else to vacuum.
Pet dander allergy
Allergic reactions to pets are caused protein in the animal’s dander (dead skin flakes) and saliva. All dogs and cats carry these proteins, so no breed is allergy-free. Help keep pet allergies in check with these tips:
- Keep your pet outdoors or restrict your pet to a few rooms in the house.
- Keep your pet out of the bedroom.
- Wash your hands after touching your pet.
- Vacuum regularly with a high-efficiency particulate filter or a double-layered bag, and possibly wear a dust mask. Or ask someone else to vacuum.
Molds are found in outdoor air and can enter your home any time you open a door or window. Any house can develop a mold problem with the right conditions. Molds like to grow on wallboard, wood or fabrics, but they will grow on any surface. They thrive in damp basements and closets; bathrooms, especially showers; places where fresh food is stored; garbage cans; refrigerator drip pans; house plants; air conditioners; humidifiers; and upholstered furniture. You can reduce mold in your home with these tips:
- Clean bathrooms, kitchens and basements regularly, and keep them well-aired.
- Quickly clean up any spills or leaks to prevent mold from growing.
- Change filters on your furnace and air conditioner regularly.
- Use dehumidifiers or exhaust fans in damp areas.
The first steps in treatment for any allergy is to take steps to avoid exposure to your triggers. However, many indoor allergens are common and you can’t completely avoid them. A number of over-the-counter medications can ease your symptoms, including steroid nasal sprays and antihistamines. However, some over-the-counter medications can lead to unwanted side effects, such as drowsiness and fatigue. If over-the-counter medications don’t control your symptoms, you should contact your health care provider to help decide if other treatment options, such as immunotherapy (allergy shots), are an option for you and your family.
Mayo Clinic Health System has locations throughout the Chippewa Valley, offering a range of medical services. For more information, visit www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org.