Common Indoor Asthma & Allergy Triggers and How to Reduce Them

An allergy or asthma trigger is anything that causes your body to produce allergy symptoms. For example, breathing in pollen may trigger your nasal allergy symptoms if you’re allergic to pollen. The most common triggers indoors include dust mites, molds, pets, cockroaches and pollens. If you have an allergy, these common triggers can induce a range of symptoms that include conjunctivitis, asthma, eczema, rhinitis and generalized swelling. Naturally, if you suffer from allergies, making sure that your home is as free of triggers as possible to reduce your risk of exposure is a great plan. What follows are some simple guidelines to reduce allergy triggers in your home.

Dust Mite Triggers: Dust mite allergy is an allergic reaction to tiny bugs that commonly live in household dust lodged in bedding, upholstered furniture, carpeting and the like. Although these insects are too small to see without a microscope, they thrive in warm, humid environments. A variety of medications are available to treat allergy symptoms caused by dust mites but the most effective treatment is avoidance in combination with medications and desensitization for optimal results. You can reduce the trigger effect of dust mites in the home by encasing pillows, mattresses and box springs with dust mite covers, washing sheets at least once a week in hot water, minimizing dust collecting items like stuffed animals, cleaning carpets and curtains regularly and dusting regularly. Additionally, eliminate the conditions dust mites thrive in by keeping the temperature inside your home at 68 degrees or below and maintaining a relative humidity below 50 percent. A dehumidifier or air conditioner can help keep humidity low, and a hygrometer (available at most hardware stores) can measure humidity levels. There are chemicals on the market that can be used to control dust mites, but exercise caution in using them as some evidence suggests exposure can also bring about allergic reactions in some people. It is important to note that even eliminating all dust mites from the home may not reduce allergic symptoms since these pests are common outside of the home as well. Unfortunately, for those who suffer from allergic asthma triggered by dust mites, eliminating the pest from the home shows little to no appreciable benefit. An article on WebMD notes "An analysis of clinical studies shows that even if you succeed in getting rid of most of the dust mites in your home, it won't prevent allergic asthma triggered by the Lilliputian pests."

Mold Triggers: People who have allergy symptoms throughout the year, especially if their symptoms get worse in damp weather, may be allergic to mold. Mold is a fungus that causes disintegration of organic matter like leaves, wood or animal matter. Mold is present both indoors and out. Indoors, mold will grow wherever in response to moisture and will often flourish in places that may not be noticed. Basement walls, crawl spaces, and bathrooms are all places where molds may flourish unseen and trigger symptoms like excessive sinus drainage, irritated eyes or throat, coughing, wheezing and other upper respiratory problems. You can reduce your exposure to mold by thoroughly examining and cleaning visible mold in basements, crawl spaces, bathrooms and other places in your home, removing indoor plants, discarding moldy items, running a dehumidifier, keeping the outside exterior of your home free of moisture, making sure your bathroom is well ventilated and using the exhaust fan when taking a shower.

Pet Triggers: Dander and saliva from animals with fur or feathers can be an allergen for some and can cause asthma symptoms. Reduce your exposure to pet allergens by vacuuming and damp dusting at least twice a week; keeping pets out of the bedroom and other rooms where you spend a lot of time; using high-efficiency HEPA air purifiers throughout your home and especially in the bedroom and, if suitable, bathe your pet once a week. If you suspect that you have a pet allergy, contact an allergist for testing to confirm. While you may assume you are allergic to your cat or dog, having an allergy test by a qualified physician may reveal that your reaction is really to a specific plant pollen that ended up on your pet’s fur while they were outside, not the animal itself.

Cockroach Triggers: Cockroaches are one of Southeast Louisiana’s biggest pests and live in all types of buildings and all kinds of neighborhoods. Studies estimate that 78-98 percent of all urban homes have cockroaches. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Cockroach allergy was first reported in 1943, when skin rashes appeared immediately after contact with the insects. Skin tests first confirmed patients had cockroach allergy in 1959." Patients who are allergic to cockroaches often develop severe asthma attacks after inhaling cockroach allergens. The best way to help reduce your exposure to these insects is to eliminate them in your home. Because roaches are so resilient to control measures, seek professional pest control services. For ongoing control, poison baits, boric acid and traps are available. However, if you are sensitive to chemicals, consulting with an allergist about which types to use is strongly advised. Another way to reduce the temptation for these pests to be in your home is to keep food and garbage tightly covered and keep floors and counters free of organic debris like food particles. Finally, you may wish to ask your allergist about medications and injections that can help reduce your symptoms over time.

Pollen Triggers: Pollen are tiny particles that are released from trees, weeds and grasses, and are carried by the wind to other plants to pollinate them. Pollen is primarily an outdoor problem so it is important to stay indoors on windy days or when pollen counts are high. When at home, make sure to keep all windows closed and use air conditioning. If you enjoy gardening or plan to mow a lawn, wear a particle mask, which is easily obtained at a local hardware store.

If you suspect that you or a loved one might have an allergy, make sure that you seek help from a qualified allergist. Often, allergy-like symptoms may mimic a different illness, which due to self-diagnosis would remain undetected and untreated. For example, many people misdiagnose themselves as having allergies when they actually have sinusitis, a condition that can be easily determined and treated by allergist. If you have any doubts about symptoms, which you believe to be allergies, we encourage you to contact our practice for an evaluation.

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