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What could be causing your indoor allergies?

Indoor Allergy Awareness Week 2020

If you suspect that your indoor environment is causing or exacerbating allergic symptoms, it’s likely that one of the following triggers might be the culprit…

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The tiny house dust mite

These teeny tiny creatures live off human skin scales and thrive in humid environments. In people who are allergic to house dust mite, it is often not the mite itself but their droppings which trigger allergic symptoms.

House dust mite is a common allergic trigger in people who have asthma, eczema and hay fever. Exposure to dust mites is possible in any room where there are soft furnishings and carpets, but the bedroom is a hot spot.

While you will not be able to eradicate them completely there are things you can do to reduce their presence in your home:

  • Keep your bedroom well-ventilated to reduce moisture, as house dust mites thrive in moist environments
  • Where possible, wash bedding regularly at 60 degrees and higher
  • Enclose your mattress, pillows and duvet with zipped allergen barrier covers to reduce contact with house dust mite
  • Hang your duvet over a chair daily to air the sheet and mattress as house dust mites do not like light and fresh air
  • Steam clean carpets and mattresses using high temperature steam
  • Where possible regularly wash soft toys at temperatures above 60 degrees, or put in the freezer overnight and wash at a lower temperature

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The dander of beloved pets

We love our cats and dogs and often regard them as members of our family, but it is possible to develop an allergy to an animal at any time, even if that animal has previously been a pet.

Cat and dog allergy is common and it can be moderate or severe, depending on an individual’s sensitivity and level of exposure.  While it is commonly thought that the animal’s hair causes symptoms, it is in fact the protein in a pet’s saliva, urine or dander (shed skin particles) which are mainly responsible. These proteins are spread when a pet sheds their hair/feathers or groom themselves.

Pet hair can also act as a carrier of other airborne allergens such as pollen, house dust mite and mould so a good cleaning regime will help to reduce the dander that spreads around the house and help to keep your family and your pet happy:

  • Keep pets out of bedrooms and do not allow them to sit or sleep on soft furnishings, such as sofas and beds
  • Damp dust regularly to remove pet dander (and other allergens) from surfaces – avoid using a feather duster as this can ‘flick’ allergens into the air, which will remain airborne for several hours
  • Use a vacuum cleaner with efficient pick up and HEPA filtration
  • Where possible, use hard flooring rather than carpets and wash these with hot soapy water
  • Where possible, regularly wash soft furnishings at 60 degrees and higher (bed linen, pet beds, curtains, cushions and soft toys)

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Mould

Mould produces microscopic spores which can irritate the airways as they are inhaled deep into the lungs triggering asthma. Allergic symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, itchy and or watery eyes. Mould can also be a trigger for people who have eczema.

Mould spores flourish in damp environments such as the kitchen, bathroom and utility room where steam and humidity levels are high.

You can help keep mould at bay by:

  • Ventilating your kitchen, bathroom and utility room, if you have one, after cleaning
  • Remember that mould may build up behind kitchen units and appliances so may not be visible
  • Wiping dry condensation from window frames regularly
  • Not hanging wet clothes on radiators to dry
  • Drying the rubber seal around your washing machine drum, the detergent drawer and the door and leaving the door ajar to air and help prevent mould from developing
  • Opening windows to reduce condensation when you are cooking
  • Using an extractor fan to remove excess moisture, preferably a ducted extractor

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Other allergic triggers in the home

Understanding possible sources of triggers in inside the home that can impact on air quality is a step closer to help control allergic symptoms.

Allergic triggers in the home can include cleaning products particularly those that are in spray form as the particles are easily inhaled. Artificial fragrances from candles and other scented products can also trigger allergy symptoms.

Whilst cleaning is an effective way of removing allergens from your home environment, some cleaning products can contain ingredients that may trigger or worsen allergic symptoms including asthma, allergic rhinitis and eczema. If you have allergies in your household, try to choose cleaning products which are non-toxic or have a reduced content of harsh chemicals. Avoid aerosols which will fill the air with pollutants and try to use cleaning appliances which do not require the use of harmful chemicals.

You should use protective gloves when cleaning, particularly if you have sensitive skin or allergic symptoms such as eczema. If you have a latex allergy, many retailers offer latex-free options.

Allergy UK has a globally recognised product endorsement scheme for products which have been proven through independent scientific testing to reduce or remove allergens from the indoor environment. It is also awarded to products which have been proven to benefit, or cause no reaction in people living with allergy. You can see a list of our endorsed cleaning products here.

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