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If you suffer from perennial allergic rhinitis – in other words, your allergy symptoms are present year-round – your triggers may be coming from inside your home, school, office, or even your car.
The first step in relieving your allergies is understanding them so they can be treated effectively. It’s important to pay close attention to what your symptoms are and when and where they occur. An allergy specialist will use skin or blood tests to narrow down your allergies so you can more reliably avoid them.
Allergies occur when your body overreacts to an allergen (also called an antigenic protein). Once the body registers the presence of this foreign substance – which is not inherently dangerous – it tries to fight off the “invader” as if it were a bacteria or virus. The body then goes into attack mode and releases antibody proteins known as Immunoglobulin E – IgE for short – which binds to the allergen. Once this connection occurs, mast cells in the skin, mouth, nose, gut, lungs, and blood are then “told” by your body to start producing histamines. These histamines increase blood flow in the affected area and cause inflammation. They also send a signal to thin walls in the body called membranes telling them to produce mucus to purge your body of the allergens. That’s how you end up with a stuffy nose, watery eyes, cough, asthma and wheezing.
If you feel like your itchy watery eyes, sneezing, stuffy nose, and wheezing are just as bad if not worse when you are indoors, you might have some of these allergy triggers to blame:
Dust mites are microscopic organisms that live in household dust. Even if you clean your home often, the dead skin flakes that you and your pets shed throughout the day are enough for these tiny creatures to feed on.
The bad news is that dust mites are nearly impossible to eliminate and they are a year-round problem. However, if your allergy specialist has identified dust mites as one of your or your family’s allergy triggers, you might consider taking some of the following precautions to reduce the number of dust mites in your home.
Dust mites are commonly found in pillows, mattresses, box springs, stuffed animals, carpeting, upholstered furniture, and foam rubber bedding. Try the following to ease your symptoms:
Pollen can easily be tracked into your home on clothing and shoes. If you live in a warm climate, grass and tree pollen might be an issue for most of the year. These invisible particles are airborne and can travel for miles, sticking to clothing or hair which can transfer to your furniture or carpeting when those exposed come indoors.
Experiencing sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, shortness of breath, watery, itchy, red eyes, or even a skin rash or hives around cats and dogs (or other pets, including rabbits) can be tough when you love animals. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat or dog. The truth is, you need to limit your exposure or treat your symptoms according to a doctor’s advice if you’re allergic to pets but cannot bear to part with them. Otherwise, they can cause constant symptoms – and co-workers or schoolmates with pets can also expose you to allergens even if you don not have a pet at home.
A pet allergy means you are allergic to the proteins in a pet’s skin, saliva, and/or urine and has nothing to do with fur (though saliva, for example, may remain on fur that has been licked and shed). Symptoms can be more severe in winter months when your home is sealed and there is little fresh air moving through.
If you already have a pet and re-homing it is simply not an option, try these tips to reduce your pet allergy symptoms:
Mold spores can not only be tracked in from outdoors but can be found in upholstered furniture, garbage bins, mattresses, air conditioning units, humidifiers, wallboards, wood, fabric, damp basements, closets, bathrooms, refrigerator drip trays, and even houseplants. Once these spores are inhaled, they can trigger an immune system reaction that causes a cough, itchy eyes, nose, and throat, sneezing, postnasal drip, and even dry, scaly skin. In some people, a mold allergy is linked to asthma symptoms and restricted breathing.
Like all allergies, the best way to avoid them is avoiding your triggers. Medications can help keep reactions under control once they happen and should be recommended by your doctor based on your personal allergy profile.
The good news is that only certain kinds of mold cause allergies -- and being allergic to one type of mold doesn't necessarily mean you'll be allergic to others. The most common molds that trigger allergies include Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Penicillium. Your allergy specialist can perform a mold-specific allergy test.
Mold thrives where moisture collects, so it’s important to identify the places in your home where mold is most likely to grow.
A big mistake you can make is to assume that you will never have a cockroach problem. We tend to think of roaches as a problem of filth, but the truth is that anyone can be exposed to them, and it appears that their saliva, droppings, and bodies can trigger year-round allergy and asthma symptoms, especially in children.
The most common symptoms of cockroach allergies are an ongoing stuffy nose and/or cough, frequent ear and sinus infections, itchy eyes and nose, as well as wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. They can also cause skin rashes.
Cockroaches can get into homes and apartments through cracks or on outdoor plants (including things like Christmas trees) and are attracted to even the tiniest crumbs of food. It’s important not to dismiss them as a possible allergy trigger just because your home is clean. Your doctor can test you for a cockroach allergy.
To avoid having to deal with cockroach allergies, try the following suggestions:
While woodburning stoves and fireplaces might add the ambiance you are looking for, it is important to make sure they are not triggering allergies and asthma symptoms. The combustion of wood can produce hundreds of different chemicals you may be sensitive to – including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, dioxin, toluene, and other fine particles.
Unfortunately, you do not need to have a fireplace or woodburning stove of your own to suffer the effects. When neighbors burn wood, it can have a serious effect on air pollution both outdoors and inside your home if you leave windows open.
The holidays can be a hard time for those sensitive to indoor air pollution of all kinds. From Christmas trees that contain insects and mold spores to off-gassing holiday décor, being at home during the holidays can easily trigger allergy symptoms.
While you can not control your surroundings when you are out and about for holiday shopping and parties, you can get to know your triggers and follow some relatively simple guidelines for keeping things clean:
You do not need to abide by all of these rules - and some seem less than merry – but you can consider some of the stricter options if your doctor has identified certain triggers.
Seasonal allergy triggers are just as likely at work as they are at home. In fact, depending on the ventilation system and how often floors and surfaces are cleaned, they can be even worse. And while you may not have to worry about pets roaming around the office, if you are severely allergic to pet dander and saliva, co-workers with pets can trigger your allergies if they bring allergens in on their clothing or in their hair.
There are also innumerable chemical and other potential air pollutants you might be allergic to in your workplace, including industrial cleaning supplies or manufacturing chemicals. In this case, it will be important to work with your doctor to identify the specific trigger and document its effect on you.
From old furniture and ventilation systems to classmates tracking in allergens from outdoors or their pets, children can be exposed to serious allergy triggers at school.
If your child suffers from more severe allergy and asthma symptoms while at school, it could affect both their academic and athletic performance. This can be particularly frustrating if you have made sacrifices to keep your home free of allergy triggers only to have your child suffer at school.
While you can take medication once a specific trigger has been identified, you may need to talk to your child’s school administrators about helping to prevent severe allergies.
Since allergens can be found on everything from clothing, shoes, pets, décor – and even other people – you may want to keep an allergy diary to aid in the diagnosis of your specific triggers. For example, if a child’s allergies are worse during the school year and better over breaks, you can use this information to identify where the allergens are coming from. Of course, in cases where allergy triggers are in your car or on public transportation, you may not have much of a choice other than to medicate your allergy symptoms with the help of a specialist.
https://www.aafa.org/types-of-allergies/ (and many of the links from the page)
https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/public_health.html (and the links from this page)
https://health.clevelandclinic.org/tag/allergies/ (and the links from this page)
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