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What are the main causes of allergies at home?

On average, Australians spend around 90% of their time indoors. For many of us, the majority of that time is spent in our homes, especially with people still working remotely.

Our homes are our safe houses—literally. It is the place we eat, sleep, relax and spend time with our loved ones. That’s why our spaces need to be healthy sanctuaries we feel good in.

Unfortunately, our homes are, sometimes, neither energising nor healthy. Even if we don’t see it. Allergies at home, surprisingly, can be a major cause for this. They’re caused when our immune systems overreact to certain pollutants or compounds, known as indoor allergens, which are present across all our living spaces.

Indoor allergens can cause a range of health issues for you and the other occupants of your home. To address them, you have to understand where all of this is coming from.

In my experience as a building biologist, I’ve seen a few common culprits that cause allergies at home. I’d like to share some of that knowledge with you and give you an idea of how you can get a hold of this before it affects your health.

Artificial cosmetic and household products

Artificial household products and cosmetic products are some of the usual suspects when it comes to allergic reactions. These generally include standard cleaning agents, air fresheners and perfumes, which, sometimes, contain a group of chemicals commonly known as VOCs

As I discussed in one of my previous posts, these chemicals are emitted as gasses at room temperature and can cause severe allergic reactions if you’re exposed to them for a long time.

You may also develop allergic reactions to common cosmetic products due to the presence of chemicals like formaldehyde, parabens, and phenoxyethanol, which are known to cause allergies.

Instead of these potentially harmful items, try using natural products, whether you’re cleaning your home or taking care of yourself. Not only are they widely available but they’re also designed to reduce the effect of any toxic chemicals on your body.

Dust and mould

Most people display allergic symptoms like coughing, wheezing and sneezing when they come into contact with dust. I’ve had many people tell me they’re allergic to dust, when, in reality, it’s something much worse.

These symptoms are actually caused by dust mites and their waste, which are present in dust. Dust mites are notoriously resilient and can be found in every nook and corner of your house—even your bedsheets and pillows.

Mould is another source of allergens as it releases spores—irritants and toxic substances—into the air, which, when inhaled, can cause upper respiratory allergies. Mould allergies commonly cause symptoms like a runny nose, coughing, itchy and scaly skin and irritations.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of developing allergic reactions to mould and dust mites. The number one thing to do, here, is to increase the ventilation in your home. This will help you make sure your air is circulating and is irritant-free. 

Heat-treating your blankets and pillows is another sure way to kill dust mites as they can’t survive in very high temperatures. I suggest putting your pillows and blankets in the dryer from time to time if this is a concern.

Pets

Certain people experience allergic reactions when they are around a certain type of animal/pet, leading to the common misconception that pet fur causes allergies. In fact, it is their saliva, urine and dander that causes these reactions.

Here’s another factor many of us don’t consider—pets also bring allergens outside, indoors, if they frequently venture out into your garden or other public spaces.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you have to get rid of your pets to reduce your likelihood of developing pet-related allergies! Just stick to a few best practices like bathing your furry friend once a week and vacuuming your home regularly to minimise this risk.

Make sure your home is a place that supports your wellbeing—start by getting rid of allergies at home

Our homes are where we are most comfortable spending time. This can change dramatically if we are experiencing allergies at home, constantly. 

Identify the sources of these allergens and create a healthier, cleaner space. Live life irritant-free—or as much as possible.

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