Environmental allergies occur when the body’s immune system has a reaction to a substance or element in the environment that it perceives as toxic or foreign. When an allergic reaction is triggered, the body releases chemicals called histamines and leukotrienes. Some common symptoms of environmental allergies include runny nose, sneezing, coughing, watery or irritated eyes, sore throat, hives, sinus pain, and fatigue.
Causes of Environmental Allergies
People can have allergies to food, medicines, pollen, and plants present at different times of the year (seasonal allergies), or airborne elements in the environment (environmental allergies). Let’s take a look at some of the more common environmental allergens.
These microscopic bugs are often present in the home, living in furniture and mattresses, and prefer warm and humid environments. In addition to triggering environmental allergies, they can also trigger or worsen asthma in people who have it.
Another incredibly common allergen is pet dander. Environmental allergies are triggered from the dander that is made up of microscopic flecks of skin shed by animals.
Some people have allergic reactions to mold spores, which flourish in damp environments, like kitchens, basements, and bathrooms. Damp weather can encourage the growth of mold, but many mold spores also spread easily in dry, windy weather.
Cockroaches have a protein in their body parts, saliva, and fecal matter that can trigger an allergic immune reaction in some people. Even dead cockroaches, if not removed, can trigger an allergic reaction. Allergies to cockroaches can be extremely bothersome, triggering asthma attacks in some people.
Rodents like mice and rats are more than just a nuisance, they can spread viruses and cause environmental allergies with their dander, urine, and droppings. Their allergens can become airborne and can trigger asthma symptoms as well.
Environmental Allergy Prevention
When it comes to environmental allergies, prevention is key, and the first and most important step is to reduce exposure to allergens.
Cleaning Techniques for Preventing Allergies
Many common environmental allergies can be controlled with good hygiene and cleaning. Dust mites love fiber because they create hiding places and collect “food” (dead human skin cells) and can trap moisture. If fiber surfaces are not periodically cleaned, dust mites allergens can gather easily.
If you can get rid of rugs and carpets altogether that is preferable to carpet cleaning, which can’t always rid the fibers of dust mite allergens. Small rugs that can be washed weekly in a washing machine will be better than trying to clean carpeted surfaces and rugs with carpet cleaners. Vacuum and mop hard surfaces regularly to rid them of dust mites.
If your allergies are severe, you may consider replacing fabric furniture with hardwood, leather, or faux leather to control allergens. If you can get rid of fabric curtains and replace them with hard surface blinds, that will be ideal, but if they can’t be replaced, remove and wash them weekly.
For your bed and bedding, wash sheets, blankets and pillowcases frequently and protect your pillows, mattress, and box spring with dust-mite proof covers. Protect your mattress, box spring, and pillows in special zippered dust mite-proof covers.
When it’s not possible to remove fabric in the home environment, try using denaturing agents when you clean. Available as sprays or powders, these solutions break down the dust mite protein that triggers allergies.
Air Filters and Air Quality
You can improve the quality of the air in your home by using a high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA filter). This can improve the indoor air quality and reduce your exposure to allergens in your home for dust mite allergies, mold allergies, and pet allergies.
If you have mold allergies, airing out damp rooms like your bathroom and kitchen by opening windows can prevent mold from growing that would trigger your allergies.
If pests like mice, rats, or cockroaches are triggering environmental allergies, it’s important to get rid of your pest problem. Contacting a professional for pest control should be your first step, but you should take long-term steps to make your home an inhospitable place for pests.
Only eat in one area of the home to avoid crumbs and water-attracting pests throughout the home. All food, food scraps, and pet food should be stored in tightly sealed containers. Keep your trash in a sealed container. Mop and clean all surfaces in your eating area at least once a week, preferably every day. Make sure you don’t have water leaks or other plumbing problems that can give pests needed access to water. Inspect walls, pipes, and pavement for holes and make sure they are filled with caulk, steel wool, or spray foam for pests.
Treating Environmental Allergies
For environmental allergies, a skin or blood allergy test is usually the first step for diagnosis. Once environmental allergies have been diagnosed and if you’ve tried unsuccessfully to reduce exposure to them, your doctor may prescribe medical treatment which involves antihistamine medications and intranasal steroid sprays.
If environmental allergies are severe, allergy shot treatment may be recommended with an allergist. It’s a form of long-term treatment that can decrease symptoms of allergies by decreasing sensitivity. Some people find long-lasting relief, even after treatments have ended. The body responds to a small injected amount of a certain allergen. Then you are exposed to gradually increasing doses of the allergen, allowing you to develop tolerance or immunity to it.
In-Office Turbinate Reduction
When stubborn allergies are severe or debilitating, there are minimally-invasive procedures available to alleviate symptoms for patients suffering from nasal congestion, severe allergies, and recurrent sinus conditions. Minimally invasive in-office turbinate reduction can be done via a small shaver called submucous resection of the turbinates (SMR).
In-Office Balloon Sinuplasty
Another minimally-invasive option for severe allergy relief is in-office balloon sinuplasty. Chronic sinusitis, which is caused by inflammation of the paranasal sinuses, can result from allergies and leads to headaches, facial and sinus pain, eye discomfort, ear congestion/infection, and even tooth pain. Balloon sinuplasty is used to expand sinus pathways by reshaping the anatomy and thereby restoring proper drainage capabilities.
Expert Care for Environmental Allergies
Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent and treat environmental allergies, even for people who have severe cases.
At C/V ENT Surgical Group, our team of surgeons are highly skilled, experienced, and qualified to perform surgical procedures using our cutting-edge technology and equipment, and compassionate expertise.