Advancing Allergy Free Living

About Allergies

What is an allergic reaction?
An allergic reaction is your immune systems way of defensively responding to foreign substances in the body. The body produces antibodies to fight off the intruding substance(s) (the allergen(s)), which in turn produces a chemical known as histamine. When the body produces an excess amount of histamine the allergy or asthma symptoms surface. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include itchy and/or watery eyes, sneezing, wheezing, and coughing.

What is an allergen?
The term allergen refers to any substance that can trigger an allergic response. Common indoor allergens include pollen, mold, animal dander, and house dust mite waste. Common outdoor allergens include weeds, grasses, plant and tree pollens, ragweed and mold.

What are dust allergens?
House dust is a mixture of many substances. Its content varies from home to home. A speck of dust may contain fabric fibers, human skin particles, animal dander, microscopic creatures called dust mites, parts of cockroaches, mold spores, food particles and other debris. Of these, the house dust mite is the most common culprit to cause an allergy and asthma reaction.

What is a dust mite?

Dust mites are microscopic arachnids that you cannot see without using a microscope. They feed on skin flakes and thrive in warm, humid or damp conditions. They can be found in mattresses, pillows, carpets, upholstered furniture, bedcovers, clothes, stuffed toys, and fabric or other fabric-covered items.

How do I know if I have dust mites?
Dust mites are invisible to the naked eye. Even in the cleanest of homes, mites can inhabit mattresses, pillows, blankets, quilts, carpets and fabric-covered furniture. They thrive in warm, humid or damp conditions and live on a diet of skin scales which we shed daily.

What triggers allergies?
Dust… Mold… Pollen… Particles shed by your pets. You’ll find plenty of allergens in your home, but the most important are allergens from the dust mite and its fecal pellets.

Up to 30% of all people have allergic symptoms, with the majority being triggered by the house dust mite. Also, skin tests have shown that up to 80% of asthmatics react to the house dust mite.

What are common allergy symptoms?
The most common symptoms include: Sneezing… Itchy eyes… Itchy palate… Runny, blocked or itchy nose… Night-time cough… Wheezing… These symptoms may occur year-round and can occur inside or outside the home.

The symptoms listed above are common and vary depending on the person and the particular allergen. Keep in mind that each person has his or her own threshold to the amount of allergen they can tolerate before symptoms start to occur. A person can also develop an allergy later in life or stop having an allergy as they age.

What common allergy myths are false?
Dust mite allergies are not caused by the dust mite themselves but to the fecal matter. By just eliminating the dust mite you will not prevent your allergy symptoms from occurring. You must treat the allergen with neutralizing agents or water that is hotter than 130° Fahrenheit.

People who suffer from pet allergies are not allergic to the animals fur as most believe. Their allergic reactions are actually caused from the proteins found in the animal’s dander, urine, and saliva. Reactions to pet allergens can occur immediately or build up and surface up to 12 hours after a person’s initial exposure. Also, allergens from animals can cause asthma and an allergy symptom for several months after the animal has been removed from the home.

How do I know the difference between allergies and the common cold?
Allergies cause you to sneeze repeatedly, cause your eyes and nose to be itchy, and continue on for long periods of time. Colds usually have body aches and cough associated with them and go away in about a week.

Additional Information Links:
Allergy & Asthma Foundation of America – www.aafa.org
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology – http://www.aaaai.org
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology – http://allergy.mcg.edu
American Lung Association – www.lungusa.org
Mothers of Asthmatics – www.aanma.org
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – www.niaid.nih.gov/default.htm
National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine – www.nationaljewish.org
AllerNurse – www.allernurse.com