Environmental Allergies

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This information is about environmental allergies. It covers what they are, what can cause them, and how to deal with them.

Environmental allergies are your body’s response to substances you inhale at your home, school or workplace. They can be caused by dust, animal dander, mold spores or mildew, or feathers.

Dust and mold allergies are different from pollen allergies because they cause problems all year round–not just at certain seasons.

Environmental allergies may cause symptoms such as sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy eyes and they may cause coughing and wheezing.

The best way to control environmental allergies is to avoid the things that cause them. The first step is to find out what is producing the allergic reaction.

For example, if your reaction develops at night or when you wake up in the morning, the cause may be a feather pillow or dust mites in the bedding.

Perhaps you notice a reaction when you sit on a couch where your pet likes to sleep. If a reaction occurs when you clean house, you may be allergic to house dust.

Once you think you’ve found the case, try to eliminate it from your environment. For example, use a dacron or polyester pillow (but not foam rubber, because mold spores can grow in it). Use synthetic blankets. If house cleaning sets you off, have someone else do it or at least wear a mask while you clean. If your reaction dies down when you leave your house, it may be caused by a pet. Vacuum carpets, furniture and other places where pets have been. Keep pets out of the bedroom. If the problem persists, you may have to find a new home for the pet or at least keep it outdoors.

If the cause is dust mites, dust mite avoidance measures are helpful. Dust mites are microscopic bug-like creatures that live in pillows, blankets, mattresses, stuffed animals, carpets and cloth-covered furniture. 95% of house dust allergies are caused by dust mites. You can help by covering your pillows, mattress, and box spring with a zippered, soft plastic cover that is labeled “allergy proof”.

You can buy the allergy proof covers at bedding shops and large department stores. A bare floor is best, with only a small area rug. If you must have carpet, choose a synthetic or cotton carpet with a tight weave and a very short pile. Change the central heating filter once a month to cut down on dust and other allergens in the air.

If you can’t eliminate or avoid the cause of your reaction, you may be able to control the allergy. Antihistamine medications can help. If they don’t provide enough relief, call your health care provider. Your provider can evaluate your problem, and perhaps prescribe a stronger medication. Your provider may send you to an Allergist for further evaluation, including a detailed history of your allergy problem and possibly skin test to identify substances that cause it. You may then be given desensitization injections or “allergy shots”.

Whether the treatment is non-prescription antihistamines, a doctor’s prescription, or injections, the treatment works best if you combine it with avoidance of the things that cause your allergic reaction.

Remember these key points:

  • Environmental allergies may be caused by a variety of substances, especially animal dander, molds and dust mites.
  • To identify the cause, note where you have an allergic reaction; then take steps to avoid the probable cause.
  • When you know the cause, continue to avoid it.
  • If that does not work, your health care provider can evaluate your condition and make recommendations, prescribe medication, or possibly refer you to an Allergist for further study.
Tags: Allergies, cotton carpet, non-prescription antihistamines, allergic reactions, mold allergies
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