If you’re having an allergic reaction to something, it can often be difficult to pinpoint the problem, especially when it’s something that’s happening in your home. Chronic allergies can start to feel like you have been sick with a cold for weeks when really there was a simple solution.
Allergy symptoms can happen in the nose, eyes, skin, and lungs and are caused by an immune reaction that triggers an antibody response. This response causes the release of histamines, which create swelling, inflammation, and the release of mucus and tears.
Usually this response happens wherever the allergy enters the body, so if it’s pollen that you breathed in, you’ll feel it in your sinuses. If you brushed up on something, you will experience hives or rash on your skin. Sometimes a food allergy can also cause hives, rash, nausea, and asthma.
Common Causes of Home Allergies
The most common indoor allergens are found in the form of tiny particles that float around in the air of your home. These particles are so small that you breathe them in and they infiltrate fabrics so that they are constantly in contact with your skin. In short, they end up everywhere. The most common of these are:
Dust and dust mites. The dust mites live wherever there is dust from human dead skin flakes.
Mold spores. Many people are highly sensitive and very little mold can trigger an allergy.
Pet dander. This can be found even in homes without pets, because it clings to clothes.
Cockroach droppings. Almost 63% of US homes have cockroaches, so you may have a houseguest and not know it.
Pollen. It’s very easy for pollen to travel inside, and it happens throughout the year depending on your area.
Fragrance. While a respiratory symptom from fragrance is categorized as an irritant rather than an allergy, any reaction to a fragrance can be prevented in your home.
Latex. An allergy to latex can be quite severe, causing breathing problems.
Household products. Cleaners are the major culprits. Many contain fume-causing chemicals that often come in contact with the skin.
Natural Allergy Relief at Home
To minimize your exposure to allergens and get the best natural allergy relief, consider the following tips:
1. Target washable fabrics, particularly your bed.
The first step in most people’s homes is to look at your bedding. You spend one third of your life in your bed, so what happens during the night has a major impact on your health. Your sheets, pillowcases, and blankets should be washed once a week in water at least 130°F (54°C) to remove dust, dander, mold, and other particles. This temperature also kills the dust mites themselves. Cover pillows with mite-proof covers so that your pillows won’t need to be replaced as often and won’t harbour mites. Bathroom rugs are also a common mite home, because mites thrive in humidity. Make sure your rug is washable and clean it routinely along with throw blankets and any other household fabric items. For more information, read How to Easily Reduce Dust Mites in Your Home.
2. Remove or treat carpet and soft furnishings.
If a fabric in your home isn’t washable, it’s time to decide if you really need it. You can only imagine how much dander, dust, and pollen can get embedded in your carpet and underlay, even if you have a good vacuum with a HEPA filter. Replace carpet with wood or ceramic tile where possible. The same strategy goes for your decorative items. Throw pillows can stay if they have a dust mite cover or can be washed routinely. Curtains should be washed, but it’s better to replace them with washable blinds. These need to be dusted every week and then washed at least a few times a year.
3. Shut out the outside world to get natural seasonal allergy relief.
This is chiefly for pollen-allergy sufferers, but preventing contamination from the outside is an important step in getting all natural allergy relief indoors. Instead of just being a continuation of the outside, your home should be a haven from allergens. This might mean keeping windows closed and using a true HEPA filtration device to clean the air. Keep the temperature in your home between 68°F and 72°F (20°C to 22°C) and the humidity lower than 50% to prevent dust mites and mold. Replace small-particle filters in your heating and cooling systems at least once a month. When you come in from the outside, wipe your shoes and remove them in the mudroom or garage. If you have spent a lot of time outside, change your clothes and wash your hair (or wear a bandana and wash that instead) as soon as you come in. You can also wear a fashionable filter scarf when outside in colder weather to pre-empt allergic reactions. These also come gaiter-style. Bagless vacuums need to be emptied outside, but an even better solution is a vacuum with a HEPA cloth bag.
4. Stay away from pets.
If pet dander is an issue, it’s better to not have pets. We know! This isn’t easy for many people, so if pets are important to you, remember that cats are the more common allergy because of the protein found in their saliva. Pets can also carry a lot of pollen in their fur. If you must have them, choose a dog instead of a cat, brush fur outside, and wipe off paws before they track it into the house. Wash the brush when you are done. Don’t allow your pet to sleep on the bed. It’s even better if they aren’t in your bedroom at all. Use a HEPA air filtration device and follow all of the above advice about fabrics and bedding. Keep the house clean by vacuuming bare floors instead of sweeping, and wash your hands immediately after playing with your pet.
5. Remove clutter to prevent dust.
Any kind of knickknack, candle, and decorative item is going to collect dust, and it seems that the more there are the less frequently they get dusted. Instead of knickknacks, hang art on the wall and go with a minimalist look. Stuffed animals are also collectors of dust, and they’re not very washable, so it’s best to limit the collection to just a few favorites for allergy-prone children and toddlers. Ceiling fans are also dust magnets and need to be cleaned frequently. Make sure when you do that you either vacuum the blades or use a damp cloth to prevent dust from flying all over the place. A cleaning routine for holistic allergy relief should include vacuuming every surface and damp-mopping, including the tops of doors and windowsills.
6. Get rid of mold.
If you have moisture, you’ll have mold. Usually you’ll find this mold in your bathroom, your window sills, and any other dark, humid place such as your basement. It can live under your drywall and in your houseplants. Some mold is truly dangerous and can cause some serious breathing problems even in small amounts. To get rid of existing mold, you’ll need bleach and gloves. Scrub the area, and in some cases, replace the material completely. Make sure you have a fan in your bathroom to remove moisture and wipe down your shower after you use it. Fix leaks and check for any damage, and look for any condensation on metal pipes, concrete walls, and windows. A dehumidifier can prevent mold, and your home needs to be the same moisture content as for preventing dust mites: less than 50%.
7. Keep out pests.
To prevent cockroaches and other pests like mice and rats whose droppings create a fine dust, keep the house very clean. Seal up cracks and holes, and fix water leaks. Cockroaches can thrive without food for months, but not long without water. Not only does keeping the house very clean prevent mice and cockroaches for having a reason to be there, washing hard surfaces often will also remove any of the residues from droppings that will carry allergens in the air. If you discover that you do have an infestation, get rid of them right away with cockroach traps or hire a professional.
8. Avoid fragrances.
A fragrance allergy is not just a respiratory issue. It can also include contact dermatitis, which can cause burning, itching, and swelling. A common symptom is headaches. Products don’t have to specify on the label what kind of fragrance they use, just saying ‘fragrance’ on the ingredients list. Unscented items can also have a small amount of fragrance to mask other smells, and ‘natural fragrance’ can also trigger allergy responses. Laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and deodorizers like air fresheners have a lot of fragrance, so they are a first step. Your personal products such as deodorant, shampoo, lotions, hair spray and soaps all contain a lot of fragrance as well. Instead, try pure fragrance-free products such as unscented Soap, zero waste shampoo bars, Eco Nuts Natural Liquid Detergent and wool dryer balls. Consider replacing scented candles with pure, unscented beeswax alternatives.
9. Remove latex.
A latex allergy can cause the same airborne and skin contact reactions as other allergens, and there is a link to certain foods that have the same allergens, including avocado and banana. Dishwashing gloves, erasers, rubber bands, toys, swim goggles, hot water bottles, condoms, paint, shoe soles, some types of carpeting, and many other items contain latex. This means evaluating each item in your home and removing any that have suspect materials.
10. Watch for these chemicals.
While this is like a fragrance allergy, there are specific chemicals in household products that could be causing an allergy over and above the scent of them. Triclosan is found in hand soap, deodorants, body wash, detergent and many products that say ‘antibacterial’. Ammonia is a common cleaner but creates strong fumes that can create an allergic reaction and especially on contact with skin. Formaldehyde is a chemical that can be found in baby wipes, shampoo, makeup and toothpaste, and can cause headaches, asthma and nausea. Finding natural replacements, such as Nellie’s All-Natural cleaners for these items can not only do the job better but make you feel better too.
Easing Allergy Symptoms Naturally
As you can see, ‘curing’ allergies is mostly about removing the thing you are allergic to and creating a home free of allergens. Sticking to natural products and cleaners isn’t just about preventing allergies – it’s just better for your health and the environment as well.
On top of this, eating a lot of omega-3s and healthy foods goes a long way in reducing allergy symptoms. With climate change, pollen counts will continue to rise and cause strong reactions even in your home, but green tea and stinging nettle tea are two key natural antihistamines that can be useful in reducing symptoms even more.
Have you found an allergy trigger in your home? Comment below!