Manage Family Allergies by Reducing Allergens in Your Home

Last updated on September 13th, 2015 at 12:51 am

An important way of controlling allergies is to reduce the indoor allergens that trigger symptoms. You can do this by cleaning thoroughly and often. 
If you have an allergy, take as much care in reducing the number of allergens in your home as you do in fall allergies - runny noses and itchy eyesavoiding allergens outside, say experts.Dr Rob Hicks, a GP (family doctor*), says that allergens inside a home can trigger eczema, asthma and hay fever, along with general allergy symptoms of coughing, sneezing, itchy skin, watery eyes and a runny nose.

“If you have an allergy, avoid triggers, use your allergy treatments as advised and reduce the allergens in your home,” he says. “Reducing allergens in your home will help keep your allergy under control.”

The Impact of Indoor Allergy

According to research conducted by Allergy UK, common allergens, such as house dust mites, pets and, to a lesser extent, pollen, are found in most homes in the UK (also in the US*). They have more of an impact on the lives of allergy sufferers than previously realised.

A study found that 41% of allergy sufferers avoid visiting a relative or friend’s house because they’re scared that being in their home may trigger allergic symptoms.

Cat and Dog Allergy

Pet allergens from the hairs of cats and dogs can inflame allergies. Children with pet allergies can miss out on visits to friends, sleepovers and parties where there are animals present.

Commenting on the impact of allergens on her 14-year-old son’s life, Sarah Chapman said: “I have four children who would all love to have a dog. Unfortunately, due to my son’s allergy to dogs, it’s just not possible. I had to limit his visits to my mum’s house (she used to own two dogs) just to keep his allergic reactions under control.”

Dr Hicks has this advice for pet owners to reduce the spread of allergens in the home:

  • Don’t allow pets in bedrooms, and keep them out of the living room if possible.
  • Wash your pets once or twice a week.

Get more advice on managing pet allergies and pet hygiene.

Indoor Allergy Hotspots

As well as pet allergens from cat and dog hair, the most common indoor allergens in UK homes are house dust mites and moulds.

House dust mite allergen is most associated with bedrooms, but it can settle on surfaces and spread around the house.

Allergens from outside such as pollen particles and pet hair can infiltrate the home through the air, especially during summer, and through open doors and windows.

But they also make their way inside by sticking to clothes, skin and hair. Once inside the home, they circulate in the air and settle on soft furnishings and hard surfaces. They may cause problems for anyone with hay fever.

Reducing Indoor Allergens

So, how can you reduce the allergens in your home? Dr Hicks recommends thorough and frequent cleaning, especially of the areas of the house you spend the most time in. Here are his tips:

To Reduce House Dust Mites:

  • Damp dust the hard surfaces in your home. Don’t forget places that gather dust and tend to get neglected, such as the top of picture frames, the backs of sinks, and so on.
  • Vacuum carpets and hard floors daily if possible, and soft furnishings twice a week. Don’t forget to vacuum under your bed (where the house dust mite allergen gathers).
  • Use a barrier mattress cover on beds. They’re also available for pillows and duvets.
  • Vacuum your mattress and pillows and wash bedding and duvets above 55°C, or put bedding, duvets and soft toys into a plastic bag and put them in the freezer for 24 hours.

To Reduce Indoor Pollen

  • Keep pollen out of your home by keeping windows closed. Be aware that you can bring pollen in from outside if it sticks to your hair and clothes.
  • Change your clothes the moment you get in, put them in a plastic bag until you can put them in the washing machine, have a shower and wash your hair.
  • Wipe down pets when they come in the house after playing outside.

Read more about indoor allergy.

About the Author

NHS Choices (www.nhs.uk) is the UK’s biggest health website. It provides a comprehensive health information service to help put you in control of your healthcare.

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