Read on to see the signs that you could be allergic to your home...
Wondering why you can’t stop sneezing all of a sudden? Or why you keeping waking up with a scratchy throat? Don’t be alarmed, but you could be allergic to your house.
A study by Allergy UK has reported that millions of us are suffering from ‘Home Fever’ – allergy symptoms caused by indoor triggers. According to the report, at least 12 million Brits are suffering from allergies caused by dust mites alone, which is the leading source of indoor allergies in the UK. Other triggers include mould, dust, lingering pet dander, cleaning products and a small variety of indoor plants.
If you’ve recently moved into a new home and you’ve developed any of the classic allergy symptoms, including runny eyes, itchy throat and excessive sneezing, then it could be down to one of more of these factors in your home:
With almost 60% of allergy sufferers identifying dust mites as the main trigger of their symptoms, these invasive little critters are a very common problem in all types of households. Dust mites are found all over the home, but thrive best in mattresses and bedding.
Nadeem Malick, founder of Sleep and Beyond, a retailer of anti-allergy bedding, writes: “Dust mites and mould love taking up residence in our pillows, and are the main culprits behind sleep-robbing respiratory allergies. 24% of us are allergic to dust mites and mould has negative health effects on all of us, so anti-allergy bedding is essential for combating both.”
Pillows and mattresses accumulate large quantities of skin cells and can often become moist and mouldy, creating a banquet for the mites to feast on. The average mattress can have between 100,000 and 10 million dust mites, and their droppings are common triggers for conditions such as asthma and eczema.
If allowed to thrive, dust mites can severely affect long term health, disrupting sleep and leading to time off work in some cases.
To minimise the number of dust mites in your bedroom and create a healthy sleeping environment you should cover all mattresses, pillows and duvets with allergen-proof covers and protectors. The use of anti-allergy duvets and pillows is also highly recommended, as is washing sheets, duvet covers and pillow cases once a week at 60°.
If you’re suffering from a tight chest, wheezing and coughing, then you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re developing a cold or chest infection. However, if you find that your symptoms persist, it’s likely they are being caused by mould in your home.
Mould thrives in humid, warm conditions, and can grow on surfaces including walls, window frames, wood, cardboard, fabrics and carpets. Common household moulds release spores into the air, which we breathe in, leading to health issues of varying levels of severity.
Keep rooms well ventilated where possible to keep mould at bay, either by opening windows or installing window trickle vents. You can also install extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens, use moisture absorbers or dehumidifiers to remove excess moisture from the air, and check for any leaking roofs or pipes that could be causing damp.
Animal dander is the flakes of skin shed by pets like cats, dogs and rodents. This microscopic debris is a very common cause of allergic reactions and unpleasant symptoms, from scratching and runny eyes to coughing and wheezing, and can be even more problematic than dust mites.
Even if you don’t have pets of your own, it can take up to two years to completely remove animal dander from a home. If the previous residents in your new home owned a pet, you could be suffering as a result of this leftover dander. It collects in carpets, sticks to walls and accumulates in upholstery and curtains, so all of these need washing and vacuuming to begin the removal process. If you know the previous tenants had lots of animals, removing carpets may be your best option.
Allergic reactions to indoor plants is less common than to outdoor plants, as they tend to be leafier and do not pollinate like their outdoor equivalents. However, damp soil in indoor plant pots is the perfect home for mould, so make sure you’re checking and replacing soils regularly. Christmas trees and dried flowers are also common triggers for those with mould allergies, so stick to artificial plants if you’re susceptible to this type of allergen.
Not sure which of these allergens is causing your reactions?
Your first port of call should be a visit to your GP to request an allergy test. There’s no point ripping up all your carpets if your allergies are caused by outdoor pollen after all. It may seem like a big task, but once you have these allergens under control, you can enjoy a happy, healthy home.