TYPES OF ALLERGIES
Seasonal allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as allergies and hayfever is triggered by seasonal allergens such as pollen from grass, weed and trees. Seasonal allergies and hayfever may be more common in spring however in some parts of Australia pollen can exist all year round.
Perennial allergic rhinitis is sometimes called year-round allergies, and can be caused by allergens that are present all year around such as dust mites, animal dander or mould.
The symptoms of seasonal hayfever and year-round allergies are similar and may include: nasal congestion, sneezing, runny/itchy nose, watery/itchy eyes, itchy palate and itchy skin (hives).
Dust mites are microscopic mites that live in vast quantities within any house. They especially like to live in soft furnishings, carpets, curtains and beds. It is the dust mites bodies, secretions and faeces containing particular proteins that triggers an allergic response in susceptible people. Dust mites do not bite.
Dust mite allergies most commonly affect the nasal passages. Typical symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose and itchy eyes.
Tips to reduce dust mite allergies:
- Cover the mattress and pillows with a mite proof cover. Avoid wool underlay.
- Replace feather and down pillows, bed quilts and cushions with cotton or synthetic products.
- Wash sheets, towels and pillow cases weekly in hot water (>60 degrees Celsius).
- Avoid carpet floor covering and reduce heavy fabric furnishings.
- Vacuum weekly and use a face mask when vacuuming and dusting.
Air-borne pollen from grasses, weeds or trees can be inhaled triggering symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hayfever).
Most of the air borne pollen from northern hemisphere trees, grasses and weeds cause allergies. For example pollen from exotic trees are more allergenic than pollen from Australian trees. Pollen seasons can last several months and exposure to pollen is difficult to avoid.
The severity of symptoms is directly related to the amount of pollen in the air and the amount of pollen that the sufferer is exposed to. This can vary depending on the pollen count, heat, time of day and other weather patterns. Extreme winds also whip up airborne pollens that can make allergies worse.
Hayfever and allergy symptoms can include nasal congestion, runny/itchy nose, sneezing, itchy/watery eyes, itchy palate and itchy skin (hives).
Tips to reduce hayfever allergies caused by airborne pollen:
- Monitor weather and pollen forecasts.
- Avoid going out when pollen counts are high.
- Wear a mask when mowing the grass.
- Close windows and stay indoors on windy days.
- Avoid outdoor exercise and activities on high pollen days.
- Remove plants that may trigger your allergy.
Unfortunately many people are allergic to family pets. Dogs and cats are particularly known to trigger allergies. It is not always their hair that is the issue, rather a protein (called dander) found in their sweat and saliva, which increases in production as the animal matures.
With smaller pets such as hamsters and mice, the allergen is normally present in their urine and becomes airborne. Dander can remain airborne for many hours, resulting in allergies even when the pet is not present. Dander can also be transported by pet owners to other locations.
Tips to avoid allergies caused by pets and animals:
- Where possible keep animals outside.
- Clean pets, their bedding and their housing regularly.
- Wash hands after handling animals.
Mould excels in wet, damp places. Mould can often be persistent and difficult to get rid of and may create severe allergic reactions. Simply cleaning mould won’t make it go away, you must remove the conditions that encourage it to grow.
It is mould spores that cause an allergic reaction. Mould spores are commonly found in both indoor and outdoor environments.
Indoors they can live on any decaying matter and can grow in carpets, old furniture, on walls, in cupboards and on wood. They will live anywhere where there is sufficient moisture to support them.
The trick is to keep your home dry. Places to watch against mould are: cupboards, bathrooms, showers, refrigerator drip trays, house plants, humidifiers and garbage bins.
Tips to avoid mould allergies:
- Ensure adequate ventilation.
- Seal any leaks in bathrooms and roofs.
- Remove indoor plants that may be promoting mould growth
- Clear overflowing gutters and blocked under floor vents.
HOW DO I KNOW WHAT I’M ALLERGIC TO?
In consultation with a healthcare professional, a thorough history should be taken of the timing of allergy symptoms and identifying allergy triggers in the area that coincide with symptoms.
Once an allergy history has been taken, skin prick tests and/or blood tests may be done using different allergens. A skin prick test is done in your doctor’s office and can test for up to 40 different substances at once. Your skin is lightly pricked with the suspected allergen and then is monitored for a reaction. Generally, the reaction is an itchy, red bump on the skin that appears within 15 minutes of the test.
Test results can be interpreted by a doctor trained in allergy, along with the person’s history.