Runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, sinus pressure – these are all symptoms of allergy. If you’re an allergy sufferer, you know how they make life more challenging. Most people are quick to blame what’s outdoors – plants, grass and trees – for their sniffles when the real culprits are actually lurking inside their home. Don’t be so quick to seal the windows shut to keep allergens out – you may be sealing them in. Here are some surprising allergy triggers inside your home you may not be aware of.
Colognes, Perfumes and Body Sprays
They smell sweet but many scented personal care products are a complex blend of chemicals, some of which can aggravate allergies. When you spray these scents into the air or onto your body and breathe them in all day, you may be triggering allergy symptoms. Even though your nose adapts to the scent, they can still trigger an allergic reaction if you’re sensitive to them.
To tame your allergies, eliminate scented spray products for a few weeks and see if your symptoms improve. If you can’t bear the thought of not wearing fragrance, buy an organic, unscented body cream and add a few drops of scented essential oil to it for a subtle hint of fragrance that’s chemical-free.
Painted your home recently? If your eyes are itching and your nose watering, that new paint job could be the culprit. Paint is a mixture of chemicals and resins. These chemicals are released into the air as the paint dries. Some people are sensitive to paint vapors and develop itchy eyes or a headache when they’re around them.
Oil-based paints are usually more problematic than water-based ones, but regardless of what type of paint you use, open the windows so air can circulate until the paint is completely dry. It may take several weeks for the release of irritating chemicals to stop. When choosing a paint, look for ones with a “green seal” logo.
You lay your head on one every night and drift off into dreamland, but during your journey you may be breathing in dust mites, a common cause of allergic reactions. Look for dust mite covers to put over your pillows for added protection. You can also find covers for your mattresses and box spring. If you have a dust mite allergy, it can help you sleep more peacefully.
Your kids may not want to part with their fuzzy friends but you’re more concerned about the dust mites. Fortunately, you can eradicate mites by washing stuffed animals in water that’s 140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. To be safe, wash them a few times. Another way to kill mites is to freeze them. Place your child’s favorite fluffy animal in a plastic bag and then into the freezer for a few hours to eradicate pesky dust mites.
Trouble Lurking in Your Bathroom
Bathrooms and shower stalls are moisture-laden, offering a perfect breeding ground for allergy-aggravating mold. Some of these molds do more than trigger allergies. Some experts believe they’re linked with more serious health problems. The key is to keep air circulating to reduce moisture build-up inside your bathroom and shower. Keep a fan running when you shower and leave it on afterwards to reduce humidity. Another option is to run a de-humidifier in your bathroom. Keep the shower door open after a shower so it can dry out too. If you already have mold accumulation, brown or black spots, consult with a mold removal service.
Carpeting is another place that dust mites can hunker down in. It’s challenging to keep dust mites from thriving in carpeting, especially if the interior of your home has a high humidity. If you’re sensitive to dust mites, between 15 and 20% of the population is, your best bet is to nix the carpeting and install hardwood floors. If that’s not an option, run a de-humidifier, if necessary, to keep the humidity in your house below 50%. Contrary to popular belief, frequent vacuuming doesn’t always take care of the problem but regular steam cleaning helps.
Your Cell Phone
Itchy, irritated face? It could be your cell phone. Many cell phones are coated with nickel, a metal that a number of people are allergic to. Nickel is also a component in some costume jewelry, buttons on clothing and eyeglass frames. Even if you buy a phone that doesn’t have nickel on the surface, wear and tear from overusing it can uncover the nickel underneath. Sounds like a good reason to give your cell phone a rest – and look for one that’s nickel-free.
According to an article published on Time Health and Family, Blackberries and flip phones are more likely to have nickel on their exterior. Newer touch-screen models – not so much. Maybe it’s time for an upgrade if you’re experiencing facial redness, itchiness or a rash.
Contrary to popular belief, houseplants aren’t a major contributor to indoor allergies in and of themselves, but mold can grow on them because they’re a damp surface. If you have house plants, keep them in a dry air, away from the kitchen and bathroom to reduce their exposure to atmospheric moisture. It is possible to be allergic to a houseplant. If you’re experiencing allergy symptoms, put your houseplants outdoors for a few days and see if your symptoms improve.
The Bottom Line?
The source of your allergies could be INSIDE your home. Keep these allergy triggers in mind and take steps to control them – and get some relief from the sneezing, itching and watery eyes.
Health Magazine. October 2008. pages 67-70.
Time Health and Family. “Allergic to Nickel? Might Want to Trade in That Flip Phone”