Allergies 101

Allergies 101

Allergies can be a real nuisance. Most people know the frustration of having to deal with allergies, either through suffering themselves or from witnessing someone with the affliction. In some cases, they can severely impact on the quality of life. The “hygiene hypothesis” proposes that allergies have spiked in the Western world because of our ultra hygienic upbringings. Allergies vary tremendously in severity and frequency.

They can be long term or appear suddenly in short bursts. There are a range of factors that can exacerbate them and there are also ways of keeping the symptoms in check. There are seasonal allergies which usually affect a person during summer, however there are some people who suffer from the effects of their allergies. There are a range of ways that a person can come into contact with allergens, however this 101 will focus on the most common type. The most common method of transmission is airborne. We will show you why some substances cause allergic reactions and detail the best methods to prevent these allergens from coming into your home.

Airborne Allergens

In theory people can have allergic reactions to almost anything. However there are certain foods, molds, pet hairs, and other substances that can produce an allergic reaction. The most common airborne allergens are:

  • Dust mites
  • Pollen
  • Pets
  • Mold
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Smokes

There must be a focus to target and reduce these specific allergens. They can be different and arise from different sources. Therefore the removal of these allergens can sometimes be complex. We will go through some simple steps you can take in order to remove the different types of allergens you are likely to encounter in your home.

Sources of Allergens

As we mentioned above, these allergens can reside in different parts of your home. The most common places to find them (according to Cleveland Clinic) are:

  • Bedding

    Your bed is where you can expect to find a large number of allergens. Dust mites find good conditions to multiply in. It is recommended to have allergy proof bedding which can trap dust mites and other types of allergens. The bed can be a perfect host to a number of allergens and will discuss later in this article the steps you can take to prevent your mattress from being overcome by these allergens.

  • Upholstered furniture –

    Most people have no idea what is inside their furniture. You can clean your whole house, but still have a host of allergens nestling inside your furniture. Upholstery presents an ideal environment for mold to grow and reproduce. It is important to use specialized cleaners to destroy these allergens. It is crucial to have a regular cleaning schedule with this furniture to ensure that allergens do not have opportunities to thrive in the ideal conditions that these types of furniture present for them.

  • Pets

    Some people will actually have specific allergies to pets whereas others will have a more generalized reaction to pet hairs or dead skin cells. It is essential to have a cleaning routine to get rid of these allergens. Your pet is a cherished family member but you must remember that a pet can also be the reason for your allergy flare ups.

  • Water damage

    Damp can cause many allergic symptoms. It is essential to treat the cause of any damp or mold. Mold can grow very quickly which makes it crucial to repair any water damage. You should identify water damage or have a professional check if you are not sure. It is far easier to treat this type of damage in its earlier stages.

  • Carpet

    Your carpet is another common source of allergens. Carpets are a magnet for a wide variety of allergens. It is important to regularly clean your carpets in an effective manner. Our previous article listed some robot vacuums which do a fantastic job at removing allergens. Although if you want to keep your home as allergy free as possible we do recommend wood floors. The American Foundation of Allergies also recommends these type of floors as allergens find it far more difficult to settle on the surface.

  • Moldy air conditioners, refrigerators, humidifiers, dehumidifiers –

    All of these appliances are susceptible to mold. It is important to regularly check these devices to ensure they are functioning correctly. These devices can quickly spurt allergens into the air. You may think your air conditioner is helping your condition when it could be making it worse.

  • Kitchens or bathrooms without vents or windows; laundry rooms without vented dryers –

    Venting allows breathability and a lack of venting gives allergens the perfect conditions to survive and multiply. It is crucial to check these rooms and pay them special attention.

  • Crawl spaces

    The humidity in most crawl spaces is a reason why they are such a common source of allergens. They create the perfect environment for a variety of allergens to grow and reproduce. We recommend a dehumidifier for these areas. We talk about our recommended dehumidifiers later in this article.

  • Pollens from trees and grasses

    Some people have a specific allergy to pollen. These comes from outside but can easily enter the home through clothes and shoes. It is important to properly clean yourself to ensure you aren’t spreading pollen in the home. Approximately 20% of the American population has an allergy to pollen. (LiveScience) You can’t stop pollen from entering the atmosphere outside, however you can take steps to prevent it from coming inside your home.

  • Molds

    Molds can occur anywhere in the home and once they start to form they present the perfect conditions for numerous allergens to survive and reproduce. It is essential to remove mold at the first sight and to keep an eye on any unusual developments. There are professionals who can check this for you. Our recommended cleaners are also effective at tackling mild cases of mold.

Symptoms

The common symptoms of allergies include:

  • Runny Nose
  • Itchy Mouth and Ears
  • Scratchy Throat
  • Watery Eyes
  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Sinus Pressure
  • Nasal Congestion

These symptoms can range from mild to severe. They can often change as a reaction to changes in the pollen levels or other environmental changes. It is important to monitor symptoms and contact a medical professional if they get significantly worse. It can be helpful to keep a diary of when your symptoms flare up as this will help you to get a better idea of the root cause. Pinpointing your triggers can be the first step in a well managed allergy plan.

 

Complications of Allergies

Apart from dealing with the primary symptoms of the allergies themselves, they can also cause further complications. The Mayo Clinic has reported some complications that can be triggered through allergies. They include:

  • Worsening in Quality of Life

    Regular allergy symptoms can start to interfere with daily life. They can affect productivity and motivation levels. This can lead to missed days at work and school. Allergies can make it hard to concentrate and can significantly impact on the enjoyment that an individual has.

  • Sleep Problems

    The symptoms of allergies can sometimes keep people awake and drastically affect the quality of sleep that they get. This can lead to daytime fatigue. These problems can be worsened when bedding isn’t properly checked to remove allergens.

  • Asthma Exacerbation

    Asthma sufferers can have worsening breathing problems as a result to exposure to allergens. These can be made particularly worse by dust mites which are known to thrive in bedding

  • Sinitus

    The regular nasal congestion that arises due to constant allergy exposure can increase the chances of an infection occurring. An infection can be far more difficult to treat than a normal allergic reaction.

  • Ear Infection

    Children who suffer with allergies are more likely to develop ear infections.

Why do people get allergies?

There are many theories and hypotheses for why certain people develop allergies. There is definitely a genetic predisposition towards developing allergies. However there are also certain environmental factors which have yet to be fully understood. The rise in cleaner environments has been cited as a reason for the increase in allergies. This is known as the “hygiene hypothesis”. It states that a lack of exposure to certain allergens in early childhood increases the risk of having developing allergies. Allergies are immune system disorders and their complex causes have yet to be fully understood. Your risk of developing these allergies is increased if you have asthma, have eczema, have a parent with an allergy, or if you work/live in an environment that regularly exposes you to allergens. There is no 100% effective cure as yet although immunotherapy does have promising results. The best advice is to learn the basics of why allergies occur, how to prevent them and the precautions to take in order to minimize symptoms.

 

Why do allergic reactions occur?

Allergies are essentially your immune system overreacting to certain substances. It incorrectly sees these airborne allergens as dangers to your body. It therefore attempts to eliminate them and as a result your histamine production increases into your bloodstream due to the production of antibodies. This is what causes an allergic reaction that causes symptoms. (American Academy Allergies)

This can sound complicated but there is way of looking at this response in more simple terms. There are many tiny particles in the air. You are in contact with these particles throughout the day. Within these particles, there are certain materials such as pollen and dust mites. These particular particles can cause an overreaction of a natural response in the human body. This means that when someone comes into contact with these specific particles, they can have reactions that include an itchy nose and a scratchy throat. These allergens “trigger” these responses because a person has been “sensitized” to that specific particle. The body makes sure it remembers this substance and this means that a reaction is produced every time a person comes into contact with this allergen.

 

Can allergies start in middle age?

It is incorrect to assume that just because you do not currently have any allergies that you will never suffer from them. Allergies can develop at any time. Although, they are more common to first occur in childhood. This is because the immune system will usually become sensitized to certain allergens in childhood.

 

What is Allergic Rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis (also known as hay fever) is one of the most common form of allergies. It is where the nose membranes become irritated by airborne allergens. The symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing and post nasal drip. In 2015, 8.2 percent of adults were diagnosed with allergic rhinitis whereas 8.4 percent of children were also diagnosed with this affliction. The best way to treat this common condition is by preventing the conditions that exacerbate it.

 

What are the best ways of controlling symptoms?

The best way to control symptoms is through the use of either a nasal rinse or the use of antihistamine tablets. They are also steroid options available for those who have severe symptoms. However these also come with side effects so it is important to discuss treatment options with your doctor. There is a lot of medication designed to treat the symptoms of allergies. The effectiveness will depend on the individual’s own allergy and it always recommended to consult a doctor if your allergies start interfering with your daily life. The severity of allergies can change quickly so it is important to keep noticing if your symptoms are drastically worsening.

 

What is a nasal rinse?

Nasal rinses can remove the allergens, such as dust and pollen, from your nose that cause symptoms. They involve the use of a saline solution to flush out these allergens.  They can be very effective at relieving symptoms by tackling the primary cause. However it is essential to use nasal rinses in a safe manner. There are dangerous risks associated with the incorrect use of rinses.

What are the best methods for a nasal rinse?

There are many methods of conducting a nasal rinse. You can use your own homemade solution as a rinse. It is fairly easy to follow this method for conducting a nasal rinse, however you should take caution at all times. You can make your own nasal rinse using some common home appliances and ingredients. This WebMD article uses a slideshow which details the correct method for implementing a homemade nasal rinse.

 

What are the best products for a nasal rinse?

Alternatively there are many products allow you to rinse with ease. We recommend these rinses:

1.Res-Q-Rinse

This rinse has been specially designed by physicians to effectively administer a nasal irrigation. The rinse is all natural and free from any drugs. The innovative design means that the saline can go to the sinuses where it is required, rather than in the back of your throat. This is what sets this rinse apart from others. It is also very easy and convenient to use. This 90 day pack is a recommended solution for those suffering from allergies and congestion.

2. ProbioRinse Nasal Irrigation

The next rinse we recommend features an exclusive probiotic formula. It helps to restore your flora levels in your nose back to a healthy level. The rinse is specifically formulated to be gentle and will help to reduce the irritation within your inflamed sinuses. The special probiotic formula can help restore a nasal balance through encouraging healthy gut flora.

 

3. Neti Pot

The third nasal irrigation system we recommend is the Neti Pot. This pot is ergonomically designed to provide the best nasal rinse. It is incredibly popular for this purpose and many people have vastly improved their symptoms after using the Neti Pot. It is effective at flushing out your sinuses and getting rid of the allergens that cause reactions. We highly recommend this pot as it is the gold standard for nasal rinses. The Neti Pot has been consistently used for a long period of time by many sufferers of allergies. It offers a cheap and convenient way to keep the sinuses congested and at removing allergens that cause symptoms.

 

Which antihistamine tablets are right for me?

We mentioned above that antihistamine tablets can be effective at treating symptoms. There are a wide range of tablets available on the market. We recommend consulting with a pharmacist or a doctor to find the right one for you. It can sometimes take some experimenting to find the anti histamine tablet that works most effectively for you at controlling your allergy based symptoms. It is important to take into account that brand name does not automatically make a certain type of tablet more effective. The generic version of the anti-histamine will often be cheaper and provide the exact same relief.

 

What are the best ways of controlling allergens?

However, it is always recommended to prevent allergens rather than treating symptoms. Prevention is always better than cure. It is difficult to sometimes control allergens since this can be largely out of your control. However, these methods will help you keep airborne allergens to a minimum and keep your home free for them.

 

How do I reduce allergens in the home?

There are a number of simple steps you can take to reduce the allergens in your home. These methods are easy to follow but must be conducted regularly. If you are an allergy sufferer it is important to maintain an allergen household by thoroughly following these steps. These include:

  • Reducing clutter
  • Regularly cleaning dust
  • Washing blankets regularly
  • Washing all bed materials weekly
  • Keeping counter surfaces clean and dry
  • Storing food in the correct manner

How do I minimize allergens in my bedroom?

We stated above that bedding can be one of the places where the most allergens can be found. It is also a place where you will spend a significant amount of time. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that bedding and covers are kept allergen free. They can harbour an incredible amount of dust mites which can severely aggravate allergy symptoms and also worsen asthma. You won’t be able to see these mites as they are microscopic but the damage they can inflict is definitely gigantic. As a result of this, allergy sufferers usually got a poorer nights sleep which leads to numerous issues.

The best way to deal with these bedroom allergens is by investing in a hypoallergenic mattress cover. You should make sure that the cover is produced by a quality brand. We personally recommend the “SafeRest” protector. It has a plethora of highly rated reviews and is an effective way of preventing allergens from spreading in your bed. The surface is waterproof and breathable which ensures you can get a comfortable night’s sleep. It will not change the feel or groove of your mattress which means you do not have to adjust it. It comes with a massive 10 year warranty and provides effective protection at allergens, dust mites and bacteria. It ensures that your mattress remains protected against spills or stains that can cause allergens to thrive.

How do air purifiers work? Are they effective?

One effective way of removing airborne allergens is through the use of air purifiers. They work by filtering the allergens in the air. They detect and trap even some of the smallest particles in the air. They can be fairly effective, however this differs depending on the model and the brand. It is also important to note the volume of noise they create as this can cause an inconvenience to people. Their range also differs widely which can make the selection of an air purifier rather difficult. The type of air purifier you need will differ if you require it for a small bedroom or for an entire living room. The filter on an air purifier is also important and the usual allergy based filters are known as HEPA.

What is HEPA?

“True” HEPA filters must adhere to rigorous standards. True HEPA filters are tested for their efficiency and effectiveness. The minimum requirement is 99.7% of 0.3 microns that pass through the filter. This gold standard provides a good way at seeing which air filters have actually been tested for the claims they make. It is crucial to look for HEPA filter certification when purchasing air purifiers.

What are the best air purifiers?

These are our recommended air purifiers. We have picked out the best and most highly recommended. As cleaning experts, we know how to spot reliable models from the overpriced ones. All of the air purifiers on our list have been specially designed to remove airborne allergens.

 

1. Levoit LV-H132

The first air purifier on our list is made by Levoit. They specialize in humidifiers and purifiers. All of their products meet strict quality standards. This particular model is also specially designed for allergies and smoke.

This is one the highest rated air filters for use during allergy season. This is due to its superior air filtration system that captures the tiniest of particles. The high performance air purifier also comes included with a nightlight which makes it convenient for night use. Some air purifiers can be particularly noisy when in use; however this is not an issue with the LV-H132 which runs below 50 decibels. The sleek and aesthetic design makes it a fantastic option for living rooms and offices. For extra peace of mind, the purifier comes with a 2 year warranty and lifetime support. For those requiring a filter to suit multiple conditions, this is a perfect option that is powerful enough to efficiently deal with allergens and smoke.

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Pros:

  1. Powerful filtration
  2. Quieter than most filters
  3. Sleek design

Cons:

  1. Can be too loud on highest setting
  2. Some consumers have noted an “electrical smell”

 

2. Rabbit Air BioGS 2.0 Ultra Quiet HEPA Air Purifier (SPA-625A)

 

The second air purifier on our list is produced by Rabbit Air who specialize in the creation of ultra quiet air filters that are high quality. The BioGS features one of the most powerful filtration systems available to buy. This covers a room up to 625 sq ft. This covers a large area which makes it suitable for most living rooms. There are 5 different settings to select and the lowest one is whisper quiet. The unit is also certified by energy star which means your electricity bill won’t take a hit if you regularly use the filter. The extensive 5 year warranty provides that extra reassurance if something goes wrong with the filter. As with our previous filter, this is another sleek and aesthetic model. It has even been awarded 5 different design awards for its innovation. Customers have noted how well the filter worked even after prolonged use. This is mid range on the price scale however it outperforms filters that are far more expensive. The BioGS is a perfect filter for those who have large rooms and are seeking something that won’t be too noisy. It has manual and automatic modes which provides extensive flexibility.

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Pros:

  1. 5 Year Warranty
  2. 5 levels of filtration
  3. Covers a large area

Cons:

  1. Unit must be kept away from wall
  2. Manual mode can have erratic speeds

 

3. AeraMax 300 Large Room Air Purifier

 

AeraMax 300 Large Room Air Purifier

 

There are also fantastic filters available in the $200 range. One of the best filters at this price is the Aeramax 300. This air purifier has been especially designed for large rooms which makes it a good pick for most homes. It has a four stage filtration process that is effective at capturing airborne allergens. Like all of the purifiers on our list it has a certified HEPA filter. It is particularly effective at capturing allergens which makes it a great purchase for those suffering with more severe allergies and asthma. This has even been certified by the American association of Asthma and Allergy. The purifier also includes an innovative sensor that is able to detect air quality. It can subsequently adjust fan speed to provide optimum performance depending on the environment at the time. There is even a high performance mode available which can be effective during allergy and flu season.

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Pros:

  1. Auto detection works well
  2. Ease of use
  3. Powerful filter which effectively captures allergens

Cons:

  1. Noise can be high pitched
  2. Replacement filters are expensive

4. Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover HPA300

Honeywell True HEPA Allergen Remover HPA300

 

Honeywell are a company that have vast experience in a variety of filters for multiple uses. They have been in the industry for 25 years and have garnered a reputation for producing high quality and efficient filters. This particular one is priced reasonably at just below $200.

As the name suggests, this air filter is designed to remove allergens. This particular filter is adept at covering extra large rooms. This makes it ideal for home where a filter may not have the range to cover the extra space. It can capture allergens with ease, however it also able to capture particles as small as 0.3 microns. This can include substances such as pollen and pet dander which are known to cause reactions. The filter circulates air 5 times within an hour so you can be sure that your room will remain allergen free. Consumers have noted that the white noise that the unit makes is generally pleasant which makes it particularly convenient for long term use. This honeywell filter is a fantastic issue for those with stubborn allergies living in larger living rooms.

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Pros:

  1. Effective at eliminating allergens and odors
  2. Reliable build
  3. Easy to replace filters

Cons:

  1. Some users have noted “plastic smell”
  2. Can get louder over time

 

5. GermGuardian AC5350B

GermGuardian AC5350B

 

The next product on our list is the GermGuardian AC5350B. GermGuardian technologies were founded in 2002 and have been producing excellent air filters in that filter. They place a specific focus on targeting allergens and other germs.

This product is available as one or a discounted 2 pack if you need to use them for a larger room. It has a certified HEPA filter that is capable of capturing 99.97% of dust and allergens. It is especially effective against mold and airborne bacteria. It also comes included with a charcoal filter that can help to reduce odors from pets and cooking. The filter is energy star certified which means it is efficient and won’t drastically affect your energy bill. One positive aspect about this particular purifier is that it only has one filter which can be replaced every 6-8 months. This represents a significantly lower investment that other purifiers which have multiple filters that have to be changed every 3 months. It has five different levels of speed and inactive display panel. It is easy to use even by those who may be novices at using technology. Overall this filter is a fantastic option for those who need a high quality filter for a low price. Buying the double pack of these filters represents fantastic value for money.

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Pros

  1. Good value for money
  2. Filter only needs to be changed once every 8 months
  3. Effective against mold and airborne allergens

Cons

  1. Limited coverage
  2. Lacks some of the more sophisticated features

Can regular cleaning prevent allergens?

Although, it is impossible to completely keep your home allergen free. Regularly cleaning in the correct manner can drastically reduce the allergens you have in your home. However, it is important that the products you use don’t end up aggravating an allergy.

Which cleaning products should I avoid?

There are certain cleaning products you should steer clear from. These are products that contain harsh chemicals which can cause allergic reactions. You should avoid any cleaning product that contains; Formaldehyde, Ammonia, Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), and VOCS.

Allergy sufferers have some fantastic options of cleaning products available to them. You should carefully read the labels of cleaning solutions and look for “green” and “non-toxic”. These signs show that the cleaning product will contain much less of the potent harsh chemicals that can aggravate an allergy. We have scouted a number of sources to find the best cleaning products for allergy sufferers. These remove allergens in an effective manner and use allergy friendly materials.

 

1. Better Life Natural All-Purpose Cleaner

The first all-purpose cleaner that we recommend is made by Better Life. They are experts in the field of natural cleaning solutions. This all purpose cleaner is strong enough to be highly effective on a large number of surfaces. This includes hard water stains and stubborn food stains. It is not tested on animals and is free from harmful chemicals such as VOCs and petroleum. The cleaner is suitable to be used around pets and children. It is completely non-toxic. This natural alternative has many positive reviews with some customers noting how it was a far better cleaner than some non-natural alternatives. It keeps your surfaces clean without harming them and without aggravating any allergies.

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2. Babyganics Multi Surface Cleaner

Another cleaner that we highly recommend is made by Babyganics who specialize in products that are safe to use around babies. This cleaner utilizes plant based ingredients that are completely natural. However this selection of ingredients does not detract from the strength of the cleaner. It is powerful and effective at dealing with different types of messes on a range of hard surfaces. It is completely streak free and non-toxic. It has also never been tested on animals. It has also been tested by pediatricians and doctors to validate the claims of being safe to use around pets and babies.

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3. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Multi-Surface Concentrate

The third natural all purpose we recommend is produced by the company, “Mrs. Meyer”. The company is renowned for their vast range of earth-friendly cleaning products. This multitop concentrate is highly effective at removing stains from a number of surfaces. The concentrated formula is powerful and it means that the solution works very well regardless of which surface the stain is on. The ingredients are all naturally derived and there are no harsh chemicals which can provoke allergic reactions.

All of these natural cleaners use ingredients that are allergy friendly which means you can effectively clean your surfaces without causing an allergic response. The added bonus of using these all purpose cleaners is that they are far more earth-friendly and are as just as effective as cleaners which different chemicals. Cleaning can be a chore, but it shouldn’t have to be an activity that triggers allergies or one that poses harm to your children or pets.

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Conclusion

You should know have a much clearer idea of why allergies occur and the best methods for dealing with them. A multifaceted approach that combines prevention with treatment is the best way to deal with allergies. You will now understand the best ways of limiting allergens and knowing the most effective solutions to dealing with allergic reactions.