Coping with an indoor allergy
An indoor allergy is when something in your home or work environment triggers an allergic reaction that causes the lining of your nose to become inflamed.
This can cause cold-like symptoms such as sneezing, a runny nose and nasal congestion.
The symptoms of an indoor allergy can range from mild to severe. While it doesn’t pose a serious threat to your health, it can have a considerable impact on your quality of life. It can affect sleep, daily activities and performance at work or school.
An indoor allergy is also known as perennial allergic rhinitis. The symptoms can occur all year round, unlike the seasonal types of allergic rhinitis, such as hay fever, which is caused by an allergic reaction to certain types of pollen.
However, some allergens inside the home can trigger the symptoms of hay fever as well as other conditions such as eczema and asthma.
In some cases an indoor allergy can contribute to sinusitis, a condition where the sinuses become inflamed or infected.
What causes an indoor allergy?
Anything that causes an allergic reaction is known as an allergen. The most common triggers of indoor allergies are dust mites, fungus spores, pets, in particular the dead skin that is shed by pets (known as animal dander) and/or substances related to particular occupations or workplaces, such as wood dust and chemicals.
Treating indoor allergies
Medication to help manage the symptoms of an indoor allergy is available over the counter at pharmacies or on prescription. This includes nasal decongestants, antihistamines and corticosteroids.
In some cases, the symptoms of an indoor allergy can be reduced by using a treatment called immunotherapy. This involves exposing the affected person to small amounts of whatever they are allergic to over time so that their body builds up a tolerance to the allergen.
However, immunotherapy is time-consuming, taking three to five years to complete. It’s also not suitable for everyone.
The best way to prevent indoor allergies is to avoid whatever is causing the allergic reaction. However, this is not always possible and extra steps might be needed, such as replacing carpets with hard wood flooring, minimising contact with pets and regularly checking for signs of fungal mould.