Are your eyes watering? Has your throat swollen? An allergic reaction when you’re out and about can be annoying, but if you’re experiencing them in the home, they might seem inescapable. While getting rid of allergies entirely is nigh-on impossible, there are a few simple steps you can take to limit their impact in the home.
First off, what is an allergic reaction?
Put simply, an allergic reaction is an overreaction by your immune system. It’ll produce symptoms that would be helpful if the threat were serious. Sneezing, for example, is a great way to expel harmful substances from your nose. But if you’re doing it constantly, it can be seriously uncomfortable.
In rare cases, an allergic reaction might cause anaphylactic shock, which is a life-threatening emergency that should be treated immediately.
What causes allergic reactions?
The precise cause of the reaction will vary from person to person. Successfully tackling allergies at home means identifying the allergens responsible. This will allow you to act appropriately. For example, if pollen is triggering your symptoms, then you might want to close the windows (and get some fans if it’s a little too warm). If it’s dust mites, then you’ll want to do the opposite.
Common culprits include:
How can I get rid of allergens?
Pollen (or Hayfever)
Itchy and watering eyes? Sneezing? There are many different sorts of pollen, and it might just be a certain type that causes your symptoms. Identify the times when you’re most vulnerable (even keeping a diary), but as a guide, Hayfever usually strikes between March to September.
Here are a few ways of preventing Hayfever via our friends at the NHS:
- download a weather reporting app to check weather reports for the pollen count and stay indoors when it’s high (if you can)
- best not to dry your clothes and bedding outside if the pollen count is high
- wraparound sunglasses can help protect your eyes
- if possible, keep doors and windows closed
- jump in the shower and change your clothes after being outside
- it’s best to avoid grassy areas, such as parks and fields, particularly in the early morning, evening or night, when the pollen count is highest
- if you have a lawn, see if someone else can cut the grass for you
We might think of pollen as a threat only when we’re outdoors. But those plant spores can easily find their way into the home from outside. So if you’ve got flowering plants growing in pots around the home, you’ll be exposed to pollen.
It may be worth talking to your doctor or pharmacist to get some over the counter or prescribed medicine so you can still enjoy the outdoors without suffering too much from all that pesky pollen.
The NHS website has some great advice on Hayfever that could help you too.
House Dust Mites
You should start your war on dust mites in the bedroom. After all, you’re potentially spending eight hours a day in there (well, if you’re lucky) and if you have dust mites living in your mattress, you’ll be breathing in their droppings constantly. Not only is that a disgusting thought, but it’s also something that’ll often provoke an allergic reaction.
One of the solutions here is to cover the mattress in an allergen-proof cover. These come in several sorts, ranging from cheap, noisy PVC to breathable cotton. Considering how much a lack of quality sleep influences your quality of life, it’s usually worth investing in the breathable sort wherever possible. Again, the NHS website has plenty of tips on dealing with house dust mites.
They have also suggested other ways of dealing with house dust mites including:
- invest in wood or hard vinyl flooring instead of a carpet
- install roller blinds (wipe clean ones work best)
- choose furniture that’s made of leather, plastic or vinyl
- regularly wash (at high temperature) or vacuum your cushions, the kid’s soft toys, even your curtains, and upholstered furniture
- get an allergy-proof cover on your mattresses, duvets, and pillows
- invest in a vacuum cleaner that’s fitted with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter
- make sure to regularly wipe your surfaces with a damp, clean cloth
Check here for an up to date list.
Ever noticed the black stuff that’s growing around the edges of your bathtub? That’s called mould. It’s a fungus that thrives when exposed to moisture and reproduces microscopic spores into the air.
It will inevitably grow in steamy environments – with kitchens and showers being particularly susceptible.
Here are a few tips to help keep the mould at bay:
- Install an extractor fan – it’ll suck the water vapour away before it has a chance to condense onto every available surface. If you don’t have a fan available, simply open a window (either way, you need to deal with potential damp and condensation in your home).
- Try to keep your home dry and well ventilated
- Remove any indoor pot plants
- Do not dry your clothes indoors
- Avoid damp buildings, woods or rotten leaves – even cut grass or compost heaps
Check here for an up to date list.
Many insect bites can create a painful red soreness. This is a type of allergic reaction that can be prevented with the help of a can of repellent. Apply it generously during the summer, and keep the windows closed, particularly while you’re asleep.
An air-conditioning system might help to keep you cool without inviting the bugs in; it’ll also clean the air of airborne pollen and spores, so long-time allergy sufferers might consider it worth the investment, especially if they’re spending lots of time in a particular section of the home.
A few more ways to prevent being bitten are by:
- covering any exposed skin
- wearing shoes (not flip-flops)
- avoid wearing strong perfumes or fragrances (they attract insects!)
Household pets are constantly depositing their skin, fur, and saliva around the house (even the cutest ones). If you have a pet and have run through the list above and still can’t find what’s ailing you, then get yourself tested – it’s a short and relatively painless process that involves exposing a little bit of your skin to the animal proteins responsible.
If it turns up positive, then don’t worry: there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself. Here are a few via our friends at the NHS:
- keeping pets outside as much as possible, or limiting them to a particular area of the house, preferably an area without carpet
- not allowing pets in bedrooms
- washing pets at least once a week
- regularly grooming pets outside
- regularly washing all bedding and soft furnishings pets lie on
- using an air filter in rooms where you spend most of your time
- increasing ventilation with fans or air conditioning, or by opening windows
Check here for an up to date list.
Regular doses of antihistamines and nasal sprays can control symptoms while replacing thick carpets with hair-repelling hardwood floors can make cleaning easier.
The most effective treatment, however, is limiting exposure. Ban your pets from the bedroom and the sofa. Give them a special bed of their own and encourage them to sleep in it. That way, you can still enjoy being with your pet while minimising the suffering!
Allergies can be awful to endure, and they’re also hard to pin down. There’s plenty more advice on allergies on the NHS website that will be able to guide you with the next steps to making your world a little more care-free.