Indoor Allergies: Causes, Symptoms and Relief
Make indoors more comfortable by reducing allergy triggers
There’s no place like home - for allergies! Just stepping indoors — at home, work, or school — exposes you to numerous allergens. An allergen is any substance which produces an allergic reaction. Millions of people worldwide suffer from year-round indoor allergens - yes, it's just that common.
The most common sources of indoor allergies are dust mites, fungi (mold), mammals (both your pets and invasive rodents), and cockroaches.
Let's make it simple: the cleaner your home, the stronger your defense against indoor allergies.
Signs and symptoms of indoor allergies
An allergic reaction is the result of your immune system going on the defensive. When it detects an allergen, it produces antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). In response, your cells release chemicals to fight the allergens, which result in your allergy symptoms.
The most typical symptoms of indoor allergies include:
Itchy, red, and/or watery eyes
Hives, rash, or other types of skin irritation
Here’s where most indoor allergens hide:
Damp and humid areas
Pillows and bedding
The most common indoor allergy triggers and what to do about them
More than 95% of the allergens associated with mites are inhaled. Mite-contaminated food can also be a source of allergic reactions.
How to control dust mites:
Keep surfaces clean and uncluttered
Avoid wall-to-wall carpet: use low-pile carpets, washable rugs, hardwood, linoleum, or tile
Avoid heavy drapes
Avoid overstuffed furniture
Use sealed, allergen-resistant covers on your pillows and mattress
Wash bedding, pillows, and stuffed toys in hot water; dry them in a hot dryer
The common indoor mold and mildew that cause allergies thrive in dampness. You’ll find them in moist basements, bathrooms, or anywhere with leaks. Mold can cause a variety of allergic reactions, from minor irritation to severe asthma.
How to reduce mold:
Reduce moisture in the bathroom, kitchen, and basement
Don’t run showers too long before hopping in
Limit the number of house plants, and ensure proper drainage
Fix leaks quickly
Remove mold from hard surfaces with water and detergent or, if necessary, 5% bleach; let them dry completely
There are no breeds of dogs or cats that are 100% allergen-free — not even the hairless ones. That’s because you don’t react to fur, but to allergens in saliva, dander (skin flakes), or urine.
How to manage pet dander:
Avoid direct contact with pets
Keep pets out of your bedroom
Wash and change pet beds and toys often
Bathe and brush your pets often — and wear a mask when you groom them
Wash your hands after handling pets
Frequently wipe and vacuum spaces where your pets spend time
Before getting a pet, ask your allergist to determine if you are allergic to animals
The World Health Organization identifies 12 distinct allergens carried by cockroaches.
How to control cockroaches:
Cover food, garbage, and recyclables; take the trash out quickly
Use poison baits, boric acid, and traps instead of chemicals, which may irritate your sinuses and/or asthma
Block crevices, wall cracks, and windows where they enter
Fix and seal leaks
Keep food in lidded containers
Put away used pet bowls and uneaten food
Vacuum and sweep after meals
Wash dishes immediately after use
Clean under stoves, refrigerators, or toasters where crumbs can accumulate
Wipe off the stove, cupboards, and other kitchen surfaces regularly
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Tips and tricks to minimize indoor allergens
It’s nearly impossible to completely avoid indoor allergens - but there are ways you can reduce them.
- Keep the air as clean as possible
- Increase the flow of outdoor air
- Reduce humidity
- Use air cleaners with certified allergy and asthma filters
- Vacuum frequently with certified allergy and asthma filters
- Wear a mask while doing housework
- Leave the house for several hours after cleaning it
1. Andrew Moore, MD, reviewed. Indoor Allergens, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology [aaaai.com], February 28, 2020. Reviewed on May 20, 2021.
2. Anna Pomés, Martin D. Chapman, Sabrina Wünschmann. Indoor Allergens and Allergic Respiratory Disease, PMC/US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, June 2016. Reviewed on Oct. 5, 2021.