What is it like to be a kid dealing with food allergies? Find out from these children, who spend every day avoiding peanuts, milk, eggs, and other foods all of us take for granted. Luckily, through existing science a cure is possible: Visit the Food Allergy Initiative at www.faiusa.org for more information.
Part 1: Understanding the Allergy Basics
Whether you suffer from seasonal allergies or indoor allergies to dust mites, molds and pet dander, you may be regularly faced with allergy symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing or more. You may experience allergy symptoms while outside as a result of seasonal allergies. Or, your allergic reactions can come about due to exposure to indoor allergens while cleaning, coming into contact with pets or even while sleeping! In order to understand the secret to living with allergies, you must educate yourself about allergic triggers, environmental controls and what causes your allergy symptoms. As Part 1 of the Allergy Control Products series on The Secrets to Living with Allergies, learn some time-tested allergen avoidance steps toward living a healthier life that is free of allergy symptoms.
Step 1: Diagnose the Allergy Triggers that Cause Your Allergy Symptoms
Any allergy sufferer knows the misery that can be caused by allergy symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, headache, watery eyes, sneezing, itching, rash and even severe symptoms such as asthmatic reactions. What some allergy sufferers don’t fully know is what may be triggering their allergies, and the key to managing these symptoms is diagnosing precisely what causes allergic reactions. It may be surprising that many allergy sufferers who have mild allergy symptoms may not be able to pinpoint what they are allergic to. Without consulting with a physician to understand the nature of their allergies, these allergy sufferers are unable to proactively control their allergies.
In some cases, identifying allergy triggers is easy. For instance, if you sneeze and have trouble breathing when around cats, it’s likely that you have a pet allergy. Certain food allergies, contact with allergen sources or exposure to obvious allergy sources (such as dusty or moldy rooms) may also be easy to identify. However, many people are unaware that they can come into daily contact with large allergen sources throughout the home that cause or worsen their allergy symptoms. Understanding your sensitivity and resulting allergy reactions to these indoor allergens can have a profound impact on alleviating your allergy symptoms.
For the best understanding of your specific allergies, see your physician or allergist for allergy testing. A skin test may be performed in order to determine whether you many be allergic to dust mites, pollens, pet dander, fungi or other sources. Allergy medications or allergen injections may be recommended. Physicians can help you outline a plan for addressing your exposure to allergy triggers in order to alleviate allergy symptoms.
Step 2: Identify the Dust Mite as One of the Biggest Culprits in Causing Indoor Allergies
The top 3 indoor allergens are dust mite allergens, molds and pet dander. All three can be found in most homes and millions of dust mites can be found in even the cleanest of homes. One easy way to find allergy relief is to reduce your allergen exposure within your home. Many people who have allergies are allergic to dust mites and because they cannot be seen by the naked eye, you could be totally unaware of how much you come in contact with dust mite allergens.
Dust mites are relatives of the spider, and they thrive in the dark, warm and humid environment found in pillows, mattresses, bedding, carpets and upholstered furniture. Dust mites excrete fecal particles and it is these particles, as well as their dead bodies, that cause your allergic symptoms. In fact, “dust” is made up of dust mite allergens and other allergen particles. Inhaling these particles triggers your allergies.
Around the home, you come in regular contact with indoor allergens, but the greatest allergen exposure is to dust mite allergens. A large dust mite allergen source is your bed. If you wake up feeling congested, sneezing, with swollen eyes or a runny nose, or with other allergy symptoms, inhaling dust mite allergens while you sleep is to blame. You spend up to 8 hours a day in bed, inhaling these allergens and unwittingly aggravating your allergies. The second largest source of dust mite allergens is found in carpeting. Since many homes have carpeting, the carpet is another large area for causing allergy symptoms.
Step 3: For Indoor Allergy Relief, Control Your Environment to Eliminate Allergy Triggers
The good news is that simple steps around the home could alleviate allergy symptoms and possibly reduce your need for allergy medications and treatments. The first step is to address the bedroom due to the large amount of time spent there each day. Cover your pillow, mattress and other bedding in allergy bed encasings to create a barrier between you and the dust mite allergens in the bed. Wash your linens frequently in hot water to remove allergens. Treat your carpet with special allergy-removing carpet products, or remove carpets in favor of hardwood floors or tile. Vacuum weekly with a quality HEPA vacuum, which will contain allergens while you clean, and wear a face mask while cleaning. Keep your home’s humidity level below 50% as low humidity discourages dust mite and mold growth.
For more tips on controlling dust mite allergies in your home, request a copy of the Allergy Control Products Improving Life Indoors catalog or visit the Allergy Control® Allergy Learning Center for more allergy education. Also, visit allergycontrol.com for upcoming topics regarding The Secret to Living with Allergies. Next, Allergy Control Products will cover Addressing Pet Allergies and future series will include Controlling Mold in Your Home. Don’t miss these helpful allergy tips from the allergen avoidance experts!
In Part 1: Understanding the Allergy Basics of the Allergy Control Products series on “The Secret to Living with Allergies,” the differences between seasonal allergies and indoor allergies were covered as well as diagnosing allergy triggers, the causes of allergy symptoms and important steps to take to find allergy relief. In indoor allergies, the top three allergen sources include dust mite allergens, molds and pet dander. Although some allergy sources are harder to identify, pet allergies may often be self-evident as contact with the animal or pet can cause obvious allergy symptoms. What may not be as well known is what causes pet allergies, as it is not actually the pet hair that is at the root of the problem. In Part 2 of the Allergy Control Products “The Secret to Living with Allergies” series, what causes pet allergies and steps to reduce allergy symptoms related to pet allergies will be covered.
Step 1: Learn the Facts About Pet Allergies that Cause Your Allergy Symptoms
Many people believe that what causes pet allergies is the pet hair, but the allergy-causing material is instead a protein found in the animal’s dander (made up of flaky skin cells and dried saliva), saliva or urine that triggers allergic reactions. These pet allergy particles are particularly small and your allergy symptoms begin as they are inhaled into the nose and lungs or come in contact with your eyes. In some cases, your allergic reaction may build up and occur hours after you come in contact with an animal. However, most often, an allergic reaction and the resulting allergy symptoms happen very quickly (within minutes).
Since all dogs or cats produce animal dander, unfortunately, none are hypoallergenic. Some animals may produce less dander and people with pet allergies may be more sensitive to some breeds than others. Symptoms of pet allergies can include sneezing, itchy eyes or nose, runny nose or nasal congestion and contact-induced rash or itching. For asthma sufferers, allergic reactions such as wheezing, shortness of breath and lung congestion can bring about even severe asthma symptoms.
Pet allergens (pet dander) are the highest in homes with pets, however, pet allergens can be found even in places where pets are not allowed. Pet dander is very sticky and can travel on clothing to public places. Pet dander can remain allergenic and cause allergy symptoms for long periods of time and important steps, covered in Step 3, should be taken to reduce contact with pet allergens.
Step 2: Millions Suffer from Pet Allergies, with Cat Allergies Being the Most Common Pet Allergy
Although many animals (from birds to horse to dogs) can cause pet allergies, the most common pet allergy is to cats. Cat allergy may be more predominant due to a higher potency of cat dander as an allergen or the fact that cats are not bathed as frequently as dogs and do more self-grooming, further increasing the presence of saliva and pet dander that leads to allergy symptoms. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), approximately 10 percent of Americans may be allergic to animals. Of these allergy sufferers, many may have asthma and 20 to 30 percent of asthma sufferers have pet allergies. These asthma sufferers include kids with childhood asthma. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) explains that allergic asthma (caused by allergens such as dust mites, cat and dog dander and other environmental allergens) is the most common form of asthma in children.
Taking important steps to control pet allergies can lead to a healthier life for you and your children and potentially avoid instances in which severe asthma or allergy reactions may take place.
Step 3: What to Do for Pet Allergy Relief
If you have pet allergies and there is a pet in the home, it may be necessary to find a new home for the pet. This step can be difficult to do and the necessity may be dependent on the severity of your allergic reaction. If your pet stays at home, the pet must be kept out of the allergy sufferer’s bedroom and you should wash hands or clothing after any contact. In either instance, cleaning steps throughout the home should be undertaken as it is important to get rid of pet allergens or keep levels as low as possible.
For effective pet allergy relief, begin with cleaning steps in your bedroom. Create a barrier between yourself and pet allergens that have accumulated in your bed by covering pillows, mattress and other bedding in allergy-proof bed encasings. Wash your linens and any other bedding frequently, and even consider replacing bedding items. The carpet can be the second largest allergy-causing source after the bed, and removing or treating the carpet will reduce your continued exposure to allergens that have built up in the soft carpet surface. Vacuum any remaining carpet regularly, and it is particularly important to use a HEPA filtration vacuum, as these vacuums are designed to contain small allergy particles such as pet dander. Air filters in your vents will keep pet allergy particles from circulating in the home, and special filters over an air vent in the bedroom provides an extra level of filtration in the allergy sufferer’s bedroom.
Using HEPA air cleaners or HEPA air purifiers can be particularly good for people with pet allergies, as the tiny pet allergy particle stays in the air for longer periods of time. The HEPA air filter has a better chance to capture these particles before they settle to the ground, for improved air cleaning. Give your pet frequent baths to help remove dander on the surface of skin or fur and reduce your pet’s need to groom itself.
A film of food allergic children produced for general awareness which premiered at the Food Allergy Initiative Northwest inaugural benefit dinner in May 2007. www.faiusa.org