Allergies are a growing and chronic health issue, both among adults and children. 50 million Americans suffer from different allergies, with allergic reactions varying from mild to life threatening.
An allergen is a common food or substance that causes the body’s immune system to react adversely to what it perceives as “an enemy,” and release a flood of chemicals, histamine being the most common. This is known as an allergic reaction.
Being Prepared for Allergic Reactions
The first step is to consult with your physician and thoroughly understand if what you or your child is suffering is an allergic reaction, or another medical condition such as gluten or other food intolerance. Tests can identify the specific allergens that affect you. Once an allergy is confirmed, you can formulate a plan of action together.
Learning about allergens, the common symptoms, how to avoid them, and also first aid treatment when necessary is the next step. Decreasing your total exposure (allergen load) below your allergic threshold (tolerance level), will ward off attacks.
Lastly, always be on guard and head off an attack if possible, as prevention is easier than cure. Your physician will help you choose the best allergy products to relieve your allergy symptoms.
Common Allergens at Home
Allergy management starts at home with effective limitation or avoidance of allergens.
Dust mites are one of the most common household triggers for allergy and asthma symptoms. Allergies are caused by the dead cells and waste products of invisible mites. They thrive in their millions usually in beds, linens, carpets and soft furnishings, which offer perfect conditions – dark, warm, humid, and teeming with their favorite food source – shed human skin cells.
The most effective prevention is to encase mattresses, box springs, and pillows with dust-mite proof fabrics that provide a barrier. Wash bed linens at least once a week in 130°F water. Synthetic materials are better than wool or feathered bedding.
Mold spores are colonies of microscopic fungi that reproduce on decomposing matter. Damp, humid, dark, warm, and poorly ventilated areas provide ideal conditions. Mold growth is rampant during high humidity months, but can cause year-round problems in suitable conditions in the home, such as bathrooms and basements. Mold allergies are caused by inhaling airborne mold spores. Monitor humidity levels with a gauge, even when you are using a humidifier.
Pet Dander, not pet hair, is the cause of allergy symptoms. Dander is composed of dead animal skin cells that include proteins and saliva. These flake off and are inhaled.
Even hypoallergenic pets produce dander and can cause allergies. These particles can remain in the air and stick to clothes and soft furnishings for a long time. Frequent, thorough cleaning and treating of these areas is important.
Keeping the Home Allergen Free
- Buy a small-particle or HEPA air filter, and adjust direction of clean air towards your head when sleeping.
- Replace carpeting with hardwood or linoleum flooring, or washable, low-pile area rugs. Shampoo and clean frequently with a vacuum that has a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
- Keep windows closed during high pollen season. Wipe windowsills and panes clean of mold and condensation. Install double-paned windows for cold zones.
- Washable, plain cotton or synthetic curtains and roller-type shades are less allergen-friendly than horizontal blinds.
- Easy-to-clean furniture of leather, wood, metal, or plastic is less prone to harboring allergens, than upholstered furniture.
- Keep surfaces free of dust-gathering collections, bric-a-brac, or paper.
- Keep your fur-babies outside in good weather, and definitely out of your bedroom. Bathe them at least once a week.
- Avoid potted plants in the home.
- Wood-burning fireplaces or stoves emit smoke and gases that can aggravate respiratory allergies. Use natural gas fireplaces.
- Install a high-quality vented exhaust fan to remove cooking fumes and reduce moisture.
- Empty and scrub sink and faucets to remove mold and food debris.
- Regularly empty and clean the refrigerator, and replace moldy rubber seals. Mop excessive moisture, discard moldy or expired food.
- Wipe cabinets and countertops with detergent and water. Check for plumbing leaks. Store food in sealed containers.
- Place garbage in a tightly lidded can, and empty daily.
- Keeping the kitchen free of food crumbs reduces occurrences of rodents, cockroaches, or allergen-bearing stinging insects.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) cites that 20-percent of Americans suffer from food allergies. 90 percent of all allergies occur from consumption of:
Nuts: Peanut allergies result in the highest rates of anaphylactic shock. Many seemingly nut-free foods and beauty products can also contain nut by-products.
Shellfish: Shellfish allergy is more common among adults. Some vitamins and pet foods also contain shellfish components.
Eggs: More kids than adults are affected by egg allergies, and about 20-percent carry them into adulthood. Eggs are often hidden in unexpected sources — immunizations, medications, anesthetics, and baked goods.
Soy: Soybeans are a common hidden allergenic ingredient in packaged foods, baby formula, stuffed toys, hair and skin products.
Milk: Cow’s milk affects an astounding 80% of U.S. children. This allergy is an immune response to milk proteins, including lactose-free products.
Wheat: Wheat is invisibly present in soy sauce, beers, deli meats, moisturizing lotions, and even shampoos.
Symptoms of Allergic Reactions:
• hives or skin rashes
• difficulty breathing, wheezing,
• repetitive coughing
• thready pulse, lightheadedness, disorientation
• constricted throat, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing
• swollen tongue and lips
• stomach cramps
Always carry your up-to-date medications and prescribed epinephrine autoinjector. Alert family, friends, co-workers, teachers, and caretakers about your food allergy and emergency treatment requirements.
If you, or someone you love, is suffering with allergies; or if you have any questions, the experienced physician at Intercoastal Medical Group are here to help. To schedule an appointment with one of our doctors, call (941) 362-8640 for our allergy specialist, or request an appointment online.