Allergens and their Nature
The allergens are those that produce the allergy. Some known allergens include the dust mite, pollens, foods, dander, and molds, among others. Simply put, the allergens are those foreign substances which when it gets in contact with the body can cause the allergic reaction. However, not all individuals exude the exaggerated reaction. There are those who don’t have the allergy on any of the above mentioned allergens.
The term allergic also goes by the name “atopic”. It means that your immune system gets turned on as a response to the foreign substances that gets near your body. You develop that allergic reaction when your body inappropriately reacts to the allergens. Hence, you are called allergic or atopic if you are too prone to the allergy.
Allergy and its Etymology
The term “allergy” is rooted from the Greek words “allos” or changed or different and then “ergos” that means action or work. The word likewise points out the “altered reaction” which the body succumbs to. It was firstly used in the year 1905 to define the adverse reaction of the children who received multiple shots of horse serum to fight against infection.
Determining the Causes
There are several causes that provoke any kind of allergy to develop. It can be due to dust mite, food, pets, and many others. The reaction can be in the form of eye itching, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, skin itching, rash breakout, and the list goes on.
As you know, the body has the immune system which fights off the foreign organisms that get into the body or those which are otherwise termed as the “foreign invaders” or infections. The antigens then provoke the generation of the antibodies and depending on the internal process, they may result to allergic reactions.
Like the army, the immune system aims to ruin the enemy. The protective proteins which are known as antibodies mean to target those foreign invaders. The antibodies or immuno-globulins protectively reach towards the surface and call every immune cell to action. The different types of immuno-globulins are IgA, IgM, IgG, IgD, and IgE. The latter is the one that functions as the antibody.
The Ones at Risk
The rationale behind the question “Why are some people allergic while some are not?” can be further explained by heredity as one of the many factors. The same reaction can be passed on from one generation to another. It is to be made clear that you may not necessarily carry the same allergy or disease like what your parents have or sometimes you may not exhibit the symptoms. Another factor to blame is the environment. The exposure to allergen can provoke the allergic reaction.
Allergies may develop despite the age. In fact, some people get them while they are yet in the womb. Children can carry them towards their adulthood. Some individuals experience the breakout during their adult stage.
Allergies developed by adults can be particularly hard to diagnose, but even more complex to children as some common symptoms may be also similar indications of other ailments. What makes it even harder is that children are often less capable of describing the symptoms, which leave the parents guessing. When such cases occur, it is always wise to immediately seek help of a trusted physician as they are the right authority to treat and provide medications. But to make it easier for you to see if your child is suffering from a certain allergy, here are five common symptoms related to allergies:
When your body overreacts to a certain allergen, it produces more body fluids, which in turn cause the sinus passages to be blocked. There are germs and bacteria that will be able to pass through these passages and as they leave, they also invade the tissues lining your sinus cavity. This causes infection, to which people who have allergies are more susceptible because their body’s immune system weakens from attempting to ward off foreign elements; and thus, causing the body to be less effective in fighting itself from germs. Sinus infections are usually serious conditions as they lead to nasal congestion, headaches, and fever.
This is one of the most common allergy symptoms in children, and even in adults. The nose easily detects by becoming itchy if there are irritants or allergens in the environment. An itchy, stuffy nose can also clearly define that there are allergens and are more serious when the condition leads to cold. When your child is rubbing their nose which seems to resemble a salute action, this is already an indication of the allergy. In fact, this action has already been nicknamed as the “allergy salute.” Allergic reactions can be prevented by avoiding your child from being in an environment where there are any allergens. But in any case that they get it, the itchy nose can allow you to intervene whatever allergy your child is developing.
If the child is dry coughing and it does not seem to go away, this is chronic cough. Sometimes, there is phlegm, in which case can be an indication that there is an increased fluid present in their sinus cavity; thus, is an allergy symptom you should not ignore. Remember that chronic cough is not a condition but rather an allergy symptom; therefore, it is best to eliminate the source of cough for good rather than by just treating it. However, if the cough persists even after eliminating the source, the best course of action is to seek medical help as it can be a symptom of other conditions as well.
If the skin comes in contact with irritants, it develops a skin condition called contact dermatitis. This is less serious. However, if it is persistent and certain physical conditions occur, this can be already associated to allergies. If there are rashes, dryness, redness, and itchiness in the folds of elbows, eyes, knees, and on the face, this is a condition requiring immediate attention, specifically medical treatments.
This is usually called, Denni-Morgan lines. These are taken after two physicians’ names who have first established connection between the allergies and the relationship to dark eye circles. And this is also called the allergic shiners, because the discoloration or black, raccoon appearance under the eyes are the results of amplified blood flow occurring in the sinus area and not due to lack of sleep. The circles can also come with extra skin fold.
Avoidance is always the best treatment for allergies regardless of which allergens are the triggers. Interestingly enough, the most effective, least expensive, and simplest options are not always followed. Many people choose medications or vaccinations instead, despite their drawbacks. Fortunately, there are lots of simple methods, both old and new, to help with avoidance. Remember, putting into practice any of these measures can only be helpful in managing your allergies.
The good news is that you really don’t have to strip your house down to the bare bones to make it allergy proof. Thorough and regular cleaning generally makes a huge difference in keeping your house as mold and dust free as possible. Patients with asthma or allergic rhinitis that are due to dust mites, molds, or other indoor allergens can feel better by taking these simple measures:
- Keep the home cool (between 68 and 72 degrees F);
- Maintain a low humidity (between 40 and 50%); and
- Make certain there is good ventilation.
When patients get started with the process of “allergy- proofing” their homes, one of two things usually happens. They either do nothing or “overdo it.” Some patients become so overwhelmed with all the different methods of allergy- proofing that they simply do nothing. That’s always a disappointing outcome, especially when the process is so straightforward and inexpensive. Just focusing on the basics of a routine and thorough cleaning and temperature and humidity reduction can lead to fewer symptoms and a vastly improved quality of life.
Sometimes, the opposite occurs. The allergy-proofing process becomes all consuming and inordinately expensive. Overpriced and often inefficient whole-house filtration devices are installed when simple cleaning and reduction of humidity and temperature would have been adequate. Clearly, there are situations in which extreme measures need to be undertaken. Before going down this path, however, it’s best to consult with your doctor. Start with the easy things first.
If you are going to undertake to thoroughly clean your home, it is best to ensure at the beginning that the techniques being used are the most effective. The tips discussed below will help you achieve the maximum benefit for all of your efforts.
Soap & Hot Water
Scientific studies of patients who are allergic to dust mites have shown that taking steps to minimize dust mite allergens in the bedroom leads to a decrease in allergic symptoms and medication requirements. Emphasis is placed on the bedroom since people spend at least one third of a 24 hour day there. It is also the room with the greatest number of dust mites.
New synthetic bedding materials are available that are equivalent to down for warmth but can withstand washing more easily because the fibers don’t clump. The ideal water temperature for washing is at least 130 degrees F to completely kill the dust mites found throughout the bedding.
When the hot water heater is set to achieve a temperature of 130 degrees F, precautions must be taken to prevent scalding a child. For example, at bath time, always remain in the room with a child and make sure to always turn off the “hot” water faucet first and finish with the “cold” faucet.
The choice of bedding materials becomes important. They must be able to withstand the rigors of weekly hot water washing in order to kill the dust mites and remove accumulated allergens. Many bedding materials may be bulky, making them more difficult to wash. It may be easier to use several layers for warmth instead of bulky items for ease of washing. Since any type of blanket material can support dust mite growth, it is important to select one that can withstand repeated washings.
Vacuuming the Right Way
If the carpet can’t be replaced by a solid surface such as linoleum or hardwood, then it must be cleaned thoroughly and frequently. Also remember to vacuum upholstered furniture, draperies, and other fabric items that cannot be washed, removed, or replaced. The trouble with vacuuming is that the allergenic dust mite and mold particles become airborne during the process. Dust mite particles can remain airborne for about 15 minutes and be redistributed throughout the home environment. Allergic persons clearly should not be doing the vacuuming and should also stay out of the area until the dust particles resettle. Dust mite particles also become airborne during bedding changes or the placement of dust covers on the mattress, box spring, and pillows. For severely allergic people, these tasks can lead to significant allergy and possible asthma attacks. Those affected by these allergies should definitely not perform these chores.
Allergic persons should not perform vacuuming tasks and should keep out of the immediate environment for at least 1 hour after the vacuuming has been completed. Damp dusting should then follow to catch any loose particles.
The vacuum cleaner collecting bag acts as the primary filter in most vacuum cleaning systems. A standard bag can be replaced with a high-filtration multi-layer bag and an exhaust filter can be added. These measures prevent the allergen particles from escaping and becoming airborne during the vacuuming process. Replacing the vacuum bags and adding exhaust filters are economical ways to increase the efficiency of an older vacuum. These bags and filters are easily obtained from allergy supply houses. The filters are available in 8″ x 10″ sheets that can be cut to size for any canister vacuum. Very expensive vacuum units with built-in HEPA systems (High Efficiency Particulate Air- filter) have been available for years. Now, more affordable brands of vacuums come equipped with HEPA filters and a removable canister that can be washed in the top rack of the dishwasher. This system eliminates the problem with vacuum bags. As the older generation of vacuums is phased out, this development should be quite helpful in allergy control. Whole-house vacuum systems, although quite expensive, are also helpful because the dirt collection system is located outside of the house, usually in the garage.
Hard Surfaces Are Easier to Clean
Dust mites, molds, animal danders, and insect debris are difficult to thoroughly clear from the environment. However, it really is easier and quicker to clean a hard surface such as wood, tile, vinyl, or leather than it is to clean all those nooks and crannies found in carpet, fabric, or other soft surfaces.
Replacing the carpet with a hard-surfaced floor can eliminate over 90% of dust mites. If you absolutely have to have carpet, get the kind that has a low pile.
The following is a list of suggestions for how to make allergy-proofing an easier task. Hopefully, these ideas will lead to other methods you can use to thoroughly clean and maintain your environment allergy free. Take it one step at a time and focus on the bedrooms first. If you plan on moving, pay close attention to steps that can be taken to allergy-proof prior to moving into the new house. It is much easier to put these ideas into action in the beginning than after everything is in place. It’s really not as hard as it looks!
- Avoid ornate furniture. Plain, simple designs accumulate less dust. No open bookshelves; they are great dust-catchers.
- Keep all clothes in drawers or closets, never lying about the room. Enclose wool clothes in plastic zipper bags. Avoid mothballs, insect sprays, tar paper, or camphor. Keep drawers and closet doors closed.
- Remove as much clutter as possible to make cleaning easier. Place hard-to-clean items in closets, drawers, or display cabinets with glass doors.
- When choosing furnishings, it is best to go with wood, leather, vinyl, or rubberized canvas furniture and avoid upholstered pieces. Upholstery easily traps allergens and is much harder to clean. You might try washable slipcovers on existing upholstered furniture.
- Install wood, tile, or linoleum flooring. Limit throw rugs to those that can be easily cleaned in the washer. They should be able to withstand washing weekly.
- Use allergen-proof encasings for pillows, mattresses, and box springs. Tape over zippers to help prevent leaks. Vacuum all casings frequently. Store nothing under the bed.
- Use washable cotton or synthetic blankets, not fuzzy surfaced ones. Use easily laundered cotton bedspreads or coverlets; avoid chenille.
- Install roll-up washable cotton or synthetic window shades. Avoid venetian blinds, mini-blinds, and pleated shades.
- Use washable cotton or fiberglass curtains. Avoid draperies and decorative fabric window treatments!
- Install central air conditioning or window units. Keep windows closed, especially during periods of high pollen counts and windy conditions. Grasses, weeds, and trees tend to pollinate during the early morning hours. Sleep with the windows closed.
- Use Dacron or other synthetics for pillows. Avoid feathers or foam rubber, which traps moisture and promotes mold and dust mite growth.
- Space heaters are preferred over hot air ducts. In homes with forced air heat, use filters or damp cheesecloth over inlets to reduce dust circulation. Change every two weeks. Consult your physician about air purifiers. Keep beds away from air vents.
- Damp dusting using a dampened cloth or an oiled mop will minimize the distribution of dust through the air.
Baby’s Room – Special Tips
It’s a good idea to eliminate potential irritants and allergens from your baby’s environment. Here’s what you can do to help eliminate potential sources of allergens from your baby’s world.
- Wood or plastic chairs are best for baby’s room.
- Again, avoid all feather bedding.
- Use dust-proof casings for all bedding.
- Stuffed animals should never be placed in the crib and, if used, should be washable. Put most of the stuffed items in a closed chest or closet. Store them in a freezer bag when not in use.
- When it comes to gifts for children, ask for books rather than stuffed animals. Keep the books in a bookcase with doors to help reduce allergens.
- Humidifiers should be reserved for croup. They should not be used routinely since they increase the dust mite and mold counts. If a humidifier is required, the cool water variety is safer than a steam humidifier in terms of burns. Also, be sure to change the water daily if a humidifier is necessary.
- Animal fur is a potential allergen. It’s best to keep pets out of the baby’s room.
- Overhead mobiles and wall hangings collect dust!
- Baby bumpers should be simple and washable. No ruffles or pleats.
- Ruffled curtains and venetian blinds collect a lot of dust. Vertical blinds are preferable. If levelers or shutters are used, be sure to clean them weekly with a damp cloth.
- The crib should be placed away from air vents.
- HEPA filter (High Efficiency Particulate Air-filter) can be placed under the crib. The filter will help to decrease airborne allergens such as pollens, mold spores, and animal danders.
Be Happy – You Can Control the Allergies.