Many people develop sensitivities to a wide array of substances such as aero-allergens (pollen, mold spores, etc.), foods, occupational substances, insect venoms, and drugs. A patient’s blood can be tested in the laboratory to identify the offending substances (allergens) and quantify the level of sensitivity the patient has to each one of those allergens.
Once the offending allergens have been identified, the appropriate course of action may be selected. In the case of pollen allergy, allergy shots (immunotherapy) may be the treatment of choice, while in the case of food allergy, the food(s) causing allergic symptoms should be removed from the diet. Avoidance of offending allergens, if possible, is always the best choice and may be the only effective method for animal allergies. Over-the-counter medications can sometimes be effective in helping to manage a patient’s symptoms.
House Dust Mites
The most prevalent component of House Dust that is responsible for producing allergy symptoms is the House Dust Mite. House Dust Mites are invisible to the naked eye and are a normal part of almost every household, preferring high relative humidity and temperatures between 68 and 84 degrees F. Found in bedding and other upholstered items, their dead bodies and waste products decompose into a fine dust that is easily inhaled and can produce allergy symptoms in allergic individuals. Steps can be taken to reduce mite exposure:
- Enclose all bedding in dust proof coverings.
- Change bedding weekly and wash in very hot water to kill mites.
- Vacuum thoroughly and frequently.
- Remove all fabrics (carpet, drapes, etc.) possible.
- Purify the air in the house with filtration or sanitation devices.
- Ensure proper operation of air systems and filters.
Pets in the house of an allergic patient are very harmful, and patients allergic to their pets cannot expect to achieve complete relief of allergy symptoms through medications or allergy shots unless the pets are removed from the house.
Cats appear to be the most allergenic of pets although dogs, while not as allergenic, can still cause significant allergic symptoms.
Birds, gerbils, hamsters, and guinea pigs are all very capable of producing allergic symptoms in patients who are prone to allergy.
Molds are tiny plant-like organisms that become visible as colonies growing on different substances. They give off spores that are comparable in size to pollen grains and are easily airborne, allowing the patient to inhale them and the allergy-causing substances of the spores to be released into the patient’s system.
Mold “counts” released by the news media reflect the number of mold spores per unit of air in the atmosphere of your local area. Molds thrive both inside and outside in humid environments and usually prefer warm temperatures although exceptions to these conditions are not uncommon. Some steps can be taken to reduce exposure to mold spores:
- Remove any mildewed items and all houseplants from the home.
- Keep areas like bathrooms as dry as possible by use of exhaust fans, repair of plumbing leaks, insulation of pipes that “sweat”, and all other available means to minimize humidity in those areas.
- Paint walls with mold-inhibiting paint.
- Dehumidify and heat basements.
- Clean all high humidity areas and air handling devices with chorine or other disinfecting cleaners.
- Avoid damp areas in the home or workplace.
- Store food in sealed containers to minimize mold growth.
General Allergen Seasons*
Trees (except Fall Blooming Elm and Junipers): February to May
*Fall Blooming Elm: September, October
*Redberry Juniper: November, December
*Mountain Cedar: Late December to mid-February
Grasses: April through the first frost
Weeds: June through the first frost
Ragweed: August through the first frost
Animals and Mites: Year round – worse in winter months.
Mold spores: Year round – either indoors or outdoors.
*Seasons can vary according to geographic region and general climate of different areas
Many caregivers involved in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies can provide detailed patient information handouts that contain more detailed and specific information concerning various allergens and the different methods of treatment to control allergic symptoms.