Is it a cold or could it be ‘home fever’?
Feel like you’ve got a cold or your hay fever is back with a vengeance? You could be allergic to your own home.
It’s Indoor Allergy Awareness Week and the charity Allergy UK estimates that 12 million of us could be allergic to indoor triggers like dust mites, pets and moulds. They can all cause hay fever-like symptoms which you might mistake colds and winter sniffles.
You can treat the symptoms in the same way you do for hay fever by using anti-histamines, nasal sprays and natural remedies.
But just like hay fever, first it’s good to know what you’re dealing with and take steps to avoid the triggers.
If it’s genuinely a cold it will start with the typical scratchy throat, sneezing and a runny nose before developing to congestion, blocked nose and cough and will usually clear up in 7-10 days. If it’s an allergic reaction it will likely have similar symptoms to a cold but they won’t change over time. Symptoms may come and go depending on where you are or the time of day, but they will stick around for weeks, or even months.
At this time of year, as we turn on the heating and close the windows, indoor allergies can kick in.
According to Allergy UK, changing lifestyles mean we now spend around 90% of our time indoors, often in poorly ventilated homes creating ideal, humid conditions for dust mites and moulds to thrive.
Dust mite allergies
Dust mites are invisible, unwelcome guests in all our homes and although they go un-noticed by most, for people with allergies, they can be a real problem. They live off house dust (which is largely made up of human skin!) and their waste products can trigger allergy symptoms just like hay fever. They love carpets, soft furnishings and bedding; it’s virtually impossible to completely rid your home of dust mites but there are a few things you can do to reduce their impact:
- Change & wash your bedding weekly on hot programme over 40oC
- Children’s soft toys also play host to dust mites so wash them on a hot cycle regularly too
- Vacuum carpets, mattresses and upholstered furniture often
- Consider investing in anti-allergy pillows and duvets
- Open the windows in the morning to air rooms and reduce condensation that builds up overnight.
Moulds release thousands of microscopic particles called spores into the air. These spores can irritate the skin, nose and eyes in much the same way as pollen.
According to Allergy UK, mould allergy sufferers are often diagnosed with asthma not realising that mould spores are the trigger.
At this time of year, moulds are in full bloom, found outside in gardens and woods as fallen leaves rot and inside on steamed up window frames, in our fridges, bread bins, washing machines and even in the soil of houseplants.
Even in well ventilated, clean homes, just like house mites, moulds are hard to completely avoid; but there are a few things you can do to minimise your exposure.
Keep humidity and moisture to a minimum:
- Open the windows in warm, steamy rooms like the bathroom and kitchen and always use the extractor fan in bathrooms.
- Avoid drying washing on radiators indoors if possible to keep humidity to a minimum
- Close your door whilst cooking or showering to avoid moist air travelling through your home.
- Fix leaks as soon as possible to stop mould growing on walls, and thoroughly clean damp with bleach and anti-fungal wash.
- Open windows in bathrooms and kitchens, and leave gaps between your furniture and the walls.
- Keep your home warm to avoid condensation which can cause mould and damp.
Steer clear of places where mould thrives:
- Avoid spending a long time in places where vegetation is rotting, like near compost heaps and in woods.
- Avoid spending time in obviously damp buildings or areas that store hay or grain.
- Wear a face mask if you can’t avoid areas where mould may be present.
Keep it clean:
- Throw mouldy bread away and wash the bread bin to remove any spores that may be left inside
- Wipe any visible mould off of surfaces using a cleaning product designed to kill mould.
- Thoroughly clean fridges and washing machines where moulds can linger in corners and door seals.
- Keep an eye on houseplants and re-pot them regularly to prevent mould forming on the soil
Did you know? There are four main types of mould that can trigger allergies.
This is the most common type of mould in the air, often peaking in the early autumn. It can settle on soil and dead plants as well as the inside of window frames, poor ventilated houses and fridges in need of a clean.
This is the one that appears like magic on bread, fruit and vegetables.
Less common, this one is linked to asthma and bronchitis. It’s usually found in soil, leaf and plant litter.
This mould variety thrives in soils, foodstuffs and textiles, including rotten wood, composts, bird’s nests and forest plants.