What’s lurking indoors during the ‘non-allergy’ season?
November 9, 2017
Traditionally, most people associate the spring and fall months with ‘allergy season’. Although trees, grasses and weeds are big culprits of relentless allergy symptoms, there are actually allergy triggers year round. Among those may include dust mites, mold and pets, especially during the winter months when patients are likely to be spending a lot more time indoors.
Dust Mite Allergy
Year round symptoms due to dust mites are experienced by millions of people. Dust mite allergens can be found throughout your house but most often live in warm, humid environments including beds, carpet, and upholstered furniture. These allergens can trigger a variety of symptoms including nasal, ocular, pulmonary, and skin inflammation. If dust mite or other indoor allergies are suspected, patients should consult a board certified allergist for further evaluation. This evaluation typically includes taking a detailed history including environmental exposure, physical exam and testing. Testing for dust mite allergies typically includes either a skin prick test or blood test (ImmunoCAP IgE) for the two main species of dust mites, Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus and Dermatophagoides farina.
Treatment for dust mite allergies includes reducing exposure to the allergen, pharmacotherapy, and immunotherapy. Allergy Partners has teamed with Allergy Guardian, www.allergyguardian.com, to provide dust mite fabric covers for pillows, mattresses, and box springs. Removing carpet and regular vacuuming can help limit exposure to dust mites. Pharmacotherapy is guided by patient symptoms. This typically includes the use of oral or intranasal antihistamines and nasal corticosteroids for treatment of nasal symptoms. Allergy immunotherapy is the most effective long term treatment for dust mite allergies available. Effective treatment with allergen specific immunotherapy has been shown to decrease the progression of respiratory allergic diseases and even prevent the development of asthma in children.
Molds are part of the natural environment, and can be found everywhere, indoors and outdoors. Outdoor molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees. Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. They can be found anywhere but the most common indoor areas to look include wallboard, fabric, wood, basements, closets, bathrooms and anywhere in which you may find standing water such as house plants, humidifiers, and air conditioning units.
Molds have the potential to cause health problems as they produce allergens and irritants. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic reactions to mold are common and can be immediate or delayed. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people.
A pet allergy can contribute to constant allergy symptoms, as exposure can occur at home, work, school, day care or in other indoor environments, even if a pet is not present.
Animals produce multiple allergens, or proteins that can cause allergy. These allergens are found in hair, dander, saliva and urine. All dogs produce allergens and the allergen levels increase for a patient if the dog lives indoors and are highest in the rooms where a dog is allowed.
Dust and pollen in an animal’s coat can also cause allergy symptoms. In those cases, the allergy is to dust or pollen, not to the dog.
Symptoms for pet allergies include stuffy or runny nose, itchy and/or watery eyes, congestion, sneezing, wheezing, coughing and perhaps a rash or hives. If pet allergies are suspected, a visit with an Allergy Partners physician is warranted to provide an accurate diagnosis as well as treatment. A skin-prick test is the most common way of diagnosing a pet allergy.
Avoidance is the ideal way to manage a pet allergy but we realize that pets are part of the family. Treatments for pet allergy vary, depending on the symptoms. Nasal symptoms are often treated with steroid nasal sprays, oral antihistamines or other oral medications. Eye symptoms are often treated with antihistamine eye drops. Respiratory or asthma symptoms can be treated with inhaled corticosteroids or bronchodilators to either prevent or relieve respiratory symptoms.
Allergy shots (immunotherapy) are an effective treatment of allergies, which works by building up a tolerance over time through gradually injecting increasing doses of the allergen(s) that affect you. This is a long-term solution that negates the needed for daily medications.
IS THERE AN ALLERGY-FREE DOG?
While poodles, Portuguese water dogs and a number of other breeds (including several types of terriers) have a reputation for being hypoallergenic, a truly allergy-free breed does not exist. A 2011 study compared dust samples from homes with dog breeds reported to be hypoallergenic and those of homes with other dogs. The levels of dog allergen in homes with “hypoallergenic” dogs did not differ from the levels in homes with other breeds.
How We Can Help
Allergy Partners physicians are board certified or eligible experts in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of allergic diseases, including pet allergies, mold and dust mites. If a patient is having symptoms suggestive of these or other allergic conditions, your Allergy Partners physician will take a detailed history, perform a physical exam, and order appropriate testing to confirm the diagnosis. Working together, you, the patient and your Allergy Partners physician will develop a comprehensive and personalized treatment plan.