As springtime kicks into gear, amid the improved moods and budding flowers will be one of the most frustrating things in the world. Allergies. But for every allergen that is outside, there is another possibility inside. Indoor allergens are a huge problem and affect probably about the same number of people as pollen and ragweed.
Inside houses, shops and automobiles you may find dust, dust mites, animal hair and other well-known allergens. It can be difficult to get a grip on the dust in your house, and far more difficult to get rid of the microscopic mites that feed off flakes of dead skin within the folds of your bed.
Not long ago, a European study analyzed more than 3,500 samples of dust from homes all across the continent. Researchers checked for how concentrated the levels of dust mites were and then checked out each home to search for factors that influenced the level of dust mite allergens. They found mites in the vast majority of homes, just as any study would find, because the truth is that most of us have dust mites living and breathing somewhere under our roof. They found the following risk factors contributed to higher amounts of mites: dampness in the bedroom, poor ventilation in the bedroom, the bedroom being on a lower floor, and having an aging mattress.
These are risk factors that can be changed. The researchers suggest that if you suffer indoor allergies, which are most often triggered by dust mites, replacing your mattress on a regular basis (perhaps every five years) and making your bedroom better ventilated can go a long way toward cutting down on your allergic symptoms. Both of these changes make life difficult for those little mites — and ventilating in winter months is particularly effective.
Another group of researchers also decided to look in to indoor allergens. This time the culprit was cat fur. If you are allergic to cats, and obviously don’t have one in your home but still seem to suffer allergic symptoms, it might be because these allergens can be in a house that does not have cats. That’s what a group of scientists found after checking out dust samples from nearly 3,000 mattresses.
Not shocking was the fact that homes with cats had considerably more allergens than houses that either never had felines or had one in the past. But households that never had cats can still have cat allergens, and high levels of them, if they are within towns where lots of people have feline companions. People who visit the home can bring cat allergens inside on their clothes, for one. And there was one last interesting link: homes in which people smoke will have higher levels of cat allergens. Smoke and allergens bind together to create greater concentrations in dust scattered around the house.
That would be a decent buffet for mites. If you have indoor allergies, take easy steps to prevent the sneezing, the sniffling, the watery eyes and the coughing.