Do your eyes water? Does your throat itch? Perhaps you get a runny nose during certain times of the year. These are some of the common signs of an allergic reaction. Others could include itchy ears, a skin rash, swollen eyes, and a host of other symptoms that suggest you may be allergic to something in your environment. If these things persist or develop over time, see your doctor about medical testing to determine whether you have true allergies or perhaps more vague sensitivities to temporary irritants, like smoke, household cleaning chemicals, or attic dust.
Experts claim that allergy diagnoses have increased significantly over the past few decades. Improved home insulation that keeps out bad weather but also seals in airborne contaminants may be one of the reasons. Another might be due to the fact that more children are receiving better and earlier health care, which reveals childhood allergies sooner than before.
Whatever the reason, if you suspect a loved one has allergic reactions in response to any type of household allergen, ask your doctor to confirm the allergy and then take steps to control or eliminate it.
1. Many people have pet allergies, which typically is a response to a dog or cat’s skin dander that dries and sloughs off, much as human skin does, usually imperceptibly. Don’t let your pets sleep in your bedroom, which will provide at least eight hours of separation daily from this allergen. Bathe and groom your pets frequently, and vacuum two or three times a week.
2. Dust mites and their excrement irritate some people’s skin and nasal passages. Encase your mattress and pillows with plastic covers to kill the tiny creatures that inhabit those areas. Or, if this is uncomfortable, wash pillows and bedding in hot water with detergent, which will help to reduce if not eliminate the mite population. At least weekly, vacuum carpets, fabric furniture, draperies, and other similar areas that house the mites.
3. Food allergies are common, especially to products like nuts, eggs, shellfish, and chocolate. When you identify specific food groups as the problem, find healthy substitutes and check all processed foods before purchasing them to be sure they do not contain even miniscule amounts of the food group allergens. For example, someone who is allergic to nuts also may be sensitive to foods cooked in peanut oil.
4. Those with seasonal allergies should stay indoors in the early morning or on windy days and run the air conditioner to clean indoor air.
Keep antihistamines on hand, along with medication to manage serious reactions if someone is prone to these. Sensitization injections are available for certain types of allergies to gradually increase a person’s tolerance of those substances. However, this can take years, so be patient. Life-threatening reactions must be managed rapidly by injecting the person with epinephrine from a kit that he or she should carry everywhere. Seek emergency treatment if you or someone else develops a rapid or irregular heartbeat, feels faint, or experiences difficulty in breathing.