It has been a particularly harsh spring and summer for allergy sufferers, the number of people with allergies seems to grow with each passing year. The winds must be changing, different pollens must be striking, for many stories abound of people who have never had allergies before suddenly developing the symptoms such as sneezing, itchy eyes, and sinus congestion that come with the pesky condition.
Though this year’s allergy season is thankfully nearing its end, this story isn’t about seasonal allergies. It instead is about the allergens found indoors — that’d be dust and dust mites. It can be difficult to get a grip of the dust in your house, and far more difficult to get rid of the microscopic mites that feed off flakes of dead skin within the folds of your bed.
Let’s look a study out of Spain that analyzed over 3,500 samples of dust from homes across Europe. Researchers checked for how concentrated the levels of dust mites were and then checked out each home to search for factors that influenced the level of dust-mite allergens.
The researchers found mites in the vast majority of homes, just as any study would have also done because the truth is that most of us have dust mites living somewhere in our homes. They also found that the following risk factors contributed to higher amounts of mites: dampness in the bedroom, poor ventilation in the bedroom, having a bedroom on a lower floor, and an aging mattress.
These are risk factors that can be eradicated. The researchers suggest that if you suffer from indoor allergies, which are most often triggered by dust mites, replacing your mattress on a regular basis (perhaps every five years) and making sure that your bedroom is better ventilated can go a long way toward cutting down on your allergic symptoms. Both of these changes will make life difficult for those little mites — and ventilating in winter months is particularly effective.
A second study, this time it was out of Germany, looked into another common indoor allergen — cat fur. If you are allergic to cats, and obviously don’t have one in your home, but still seem to suffer allergic symptoms, it might be because these allergens can still be in a house that does not have cats. That’s what a group of scientists found after checking out dust samples from about 2,800 mattresses.
Not exactly shocking was the finding that homes with cats had considerably more allergens than did houses that either never had felines or where one occupied them in the past. But households that never had cats can still have cat allergens — and high levels of them — if they are within towns where lots of people have feline companions.
People who visit another person’s pet-free home can bring cat allergens inside on their clothes, for example. They found one last link: homes in which people smoke will have higher levels of cat allergens, because smoke and allergens bind together to create greater concentrations in dust scattered around the house — and the mites that eat it.