In a recent survey we found 58% of allergy sufferers react to house dust mite allergen. But it’s not just house dust mites that cause problems; 31% of sufferers are allergic to mould, and 45% of sufferers say their allergy is triggered by pets. On top of that the chemicals in cleaning products cause a reaction in over 30% of sufferers1.
With the most common symptoms of an indoor allergy or ‘home fever’ being a runny nose and sneezing, people all too often confuse allergy symptoms with a common cold or flu and therefore, don’t treat the cause of the problem. Our survey revealed people just aren’t doing enough to reduce the house dust mite allergen. 59% of indoor allergy sufferers said their symptoms are worse in the bedroom. Not surprising when you consider the average bed harbours two million house dust mites and the average pillow doubles in weight over a period of six months due to dust mite faeces.
Common indoor allergens – the facts
House dust mite
House dust mites are found in large numbers in most houses in the UK in bedclothes, mattresses, sofas, curtains and pillows. Those allergic to house dust mites find their symptoms are normally worse at night or first thing in the morning. But as mites are also present in carpets, soft furnishings and soft toys, we will be exposed to them throughout the day.
There are huge ranges of chemicals we use every day from household cleaning products to cosmetics. Some of these are known to cause allergy-type problems directly; others in some way irritate people already allergic to other substances. Even low levels of chemicals, which would not normally affect a non-allergic individual, may affect many allergic people.
Mould releases spores and it’s these spores that cause allergic reactions. Spores are microscopic particles released by moulds in their thousands into the atmosphere. When in contact with skin or breathed in through the airways it can cause symptoms such as itchy eyes, eczema, rhinitis and asthma. It can also you make you feel tired, which is caused by your immune system battling against mould spores. F
1 The Rise Of Home Fever. Allergy UK, 2011. Print.
Reduce Allergens in your Home
There are simple steps you can take to reduce the amount of allergens around your home:
- Dust regularly but use a damp duster first, then a dry cloth. Otherwise, you are just moving the dust around and making the allergen airborne
- Wash bedding once a week at 60°C or higher to remove house dust mites. Allergy UK’s research revealed 16% of people wash bed linen every three weeks or less. And with 58% washing bedding at 30 or 40 degrees, house dust mites are set to stay
- Regularly steam clean carpets and curtains
- Freeze baby’s soft toys that can’t be washed at 60 degrees centigrade overnight and then wash at a low temperature. Keep only one soft toy in the cot or bed and keep the others sealed in plastic bags ready for use (remembering to keep plastic bags away from children)
- Use allergen-proof barrier covers on mattresses, duvets and pillows
- Replace your mattresses every 8-10 years. Research has found 13% of people have had their current mattress for 11 years or more, whereas 3% have kept theirs for 20 years
- Buy new pillows every year unless you have pillows that can be washed at over 60 degrees – don’t wait five years or more like the 25% of allergy sufferers out there
- Use an air purifier to help remove and reduce allergens such as pollen, house dust mite debris and mould spores. Filters, which are specifically designed to remove the most difficult particles, are called HEPA filters, and these are the most effective at reducing allergens
- Products that have been tested to ensure they prevent the escape of the house dust mite allergen may be of help. Look for Allergy UK Seal of Approval™ products on the Allergy UK website (www.allergyuk.org)
- Ventilate – moulds flourish in damp environments
- Thoroughly clean your kitchen, bathroom and utility room as these are favourite places for mould due to the steam and humidity of cooking and bathing, and then ventilate these areas
- Open windows and close kitchen and bathroom doors when cooking, showering and bathing to prevent steam entering other rooms
- Don’t hang wet clothes inside or over radiators
- Keep house plants to a minimum and change the soil regularly. Use pea-shingle over the top of the soil as mould cannot settle and survive on it