Allergic rhinitis – how to prevent allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis - a guide
Allergic rhinitis – a guide

The best way to prevent allergic rhinitis is to avoid the allergen that causes it.

But this isn’t always easy. Allergens, such as dust mites, aren’t always easy to spot and can breed in even the cleanest house.

It can also be difficult to avoid coming into contact with pets, particularly if they belong to friends and family.

Below is some advice to help you avoid the most common allergens.

House dust mites

Dust mites are one of the biggest causes of allergies. They’re microscopic insects that breed in household dust.

To help limit the number of mites in your house, you should:

consider buying an air-permeable occlusive mattress and bedding covers – this type of bedding acts as a barrier to dust mites and their droppings

choose wood or hard vinyl floor coverings instead of carpet

fit roller blinds that can be easily wiped clean

regularly clean cushions, soft toys, curtains and upholstered furniture, either by washing or vacuuming them

use synthetic pillows and acrylic duvets instead of woollen blankets or feather bedding

use a vacuum cleaner fitted with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter – it can remove more dust than ordinary vacuum cleaners

use a clean damp cloth to wipe surfaces – dry dusting can spread allergens further

Concentrate your efforts on controlling dust mites in the areas of your home where you spend most time, such as the bedroom and living room.

Pets

It isn’t pet fur that causes an allergic reaction, but exposure to flakes of their dead skin, saliva and dried urine.

If you can’t permanently remove a pet from the house, you may find the following tips useful:

keep pets outside as much as possible or limit them to one room, preferably one without carpet

don’t allow pets in bedrooms

wash pets at least once a fortnight

groom dogs regularly outside

regularly wash bedding and soft furnishings your pet has been on

If you’re visiting a friend or relative with a pet, ask them not to dust or vacuum on the day you’re visiting because it will disturb allergens into the air.

 

Pollen

Different plants and trees pollinate at different times of the year, so when you get allergic rhinitis will depend on what sort of pollen(s) you’re allergic to.

Most people are affected during the spring and summer months because this is when most trees and plants pollinate.

To avoid exposure to pollen, you may find the following tips useful:

check weather reports for the pollen count and stay indoors when it’s high

avoid line-drying clothes and bedding when the pollen count is high

wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen

keep doors and windows shut during mid-morning and early evening, when there’s most pollen in the air

shower, wash your hair and change your clothes after being outside

avoid grassy areas, such as parks and fields, when possible

if you have a lawn, consider asking someone else to cut the grass for you

Mould spores

Moulds can grow on any decaying matter, both in and outside the house. The moulds themselves aren’t allergens, but the spores they release are.

Spores are released when there’s a sudden rise in temperature in a moist environment, such as when central heating is turned on in a damp house or wet clothes are dried next to a fireplace.

To help prevent mould spores, you should:

keep your home dry and well ventilated

when showering or cooking, open windows but keep internal doors closed to prevent damp air spreading through the house, and use extractor fans

avoid drying clothes indoors, storing clothes in damp cupboards and packing clothes too tightly in wardrobes

deal with any damp and condensation in your home

Read more about how damp and mould can affect your health and how to get rid of damp and mould.

Allergic rhinitis – what are the cause of Allergic rhinitis? Part 2

Allergic rhinitis - a guide
Allergic rhinitis – a guide

Allergic rhinitis is caused by an allergic reaction to an allergen, such as pollen, dust and certain animals.

Oversensitive immune system

If you have allergic rhinitis, your immune system – your natural defence against infection and illness – will react to an allergen as if it were harmful.

If your immune system is oversensitive, it will react to allergens by producing antibodies to fight them off. Antibodies are special proteins in the blood that are usually produced to fight viruses and infections.

Allergic reactions don’t occur the first time you come into contact with an allergen. The immune system has to recognise and “memorise” it before producing antibodies to fight it. This process is known as sensitisation.

After you develop sensitivity to an allergen, it will be detected by antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) whenever it comes into contact with the inside of your nose and throat.

These antibodies cause cells to release a number of chemicals, including histamine, which can cause the inside layer of your nose (the mucous membrane) to become inflamed and produce excess mucus. This is what causes the typical symptoms of sneezing and a blocked or runny nose.

Common allergens

Allergic rhinitis is triggered by breathing in tiny particles of allergens. The most common airborne allergens that cause rhinitis are described below.

House dust mites

House dust mites are tiny insects that feed on the dead flakes of human skin. They can be found in mattresses, carpets, soft furniture, pillows and beds.

Rhinitis isn’t caused by the dust mites themselves, but by a chemical found in their excrement. Dust mites are present all year round, although their numbers tend to peak during the winter.

Pollen and spores

Tiny particles of pollen produced by trees and grasses can sometimes cause allergic rhinitis. Most trees pollinate from early to mid-spring, whereas grasses pollinate at the end of spring and beginning of summer.

Rhinitis can also be caused by spores produced by mould and fungi.

Animals

Many people are allergic to animals, such as cats and dogs. The allergic reaction isn’t caused by animal fur, but flakes of dead animal skin and their urine and saliva.

Dogs and cats are the most common culprits, although some people are affected by horses, cattle, rabbits and rodents, such as guinea pigs and hamsters.

However, being around dogs from an early age can help protect against allergies, and there’s some evidence to suggest that this might also be the case with cats.

Work-related allergens

Some people are affected by allergens found in their work environment, such as wood dust, flour dust or latex.

Who’s most at risk?

It isn’t fully understood why some people become oversensitive to allergens, although you’re more likely to develop an allergy if there’s a history of allergies in your family.

If this is the case, you’re said to be “atopic”, or to have “atopy”. People who are atopic have a genetic tendency to develop allergic conditions. Their increased immune response to allergens results in increased production of IgE antibodies.

Environmental factors may also play a part. Studies have shown certain things may increase the chance of a child developing allergies, such as growing up in a house where people smoke and being exposed to dust mites at a young age.

Up to a quarter of us now may suffer from allergies.

Allergy levels are on the rise with an estimated 1 in 4 Brits suffering from an allergy at some point in their lives


Allergies
Allergies

Research has identified an increasing trend of people suffering with allergies, with hay fever, skin allergies and rashes the most common problems faced. Experts have seen numbers of allergy sufferers grow in the last two decades, with an annual rise of approximately 5%.

Currently, 20% of children have allergy issues and a child is twice as likely to suffer if their mother is allergic. Dr Pixie McKenna, the UK’s leading female medic, encourages early diagnosis and correct management of the allergy: “When we think about allergies, we often think of the great outdoors and this is undoubtedly where the majority of contact with potential triggers occurs. However, it’s important to consider the impact of indoor allergens like dust mite, pet hair and pollen particles that can find their way indoors. “


“Thankfully, gone are the days when we had to rely solely on elbow grease to tackle allergens in the home; now there are some fantastic products on the market including Hotpoint’s vacuum cleaners, steam mops, washing machines and tumble dryers which carry the UK Allergy seal of approval.”

Providing one explanation for this rapid growth in allergies, Dr Pixie said: “It is well known that early exposure to bacteria and microorganisms in childhood primes our immune system and current thinking holds that our environment has become so sterile that we are missing out on exposure to both bad and good germs. This isn’t of course to say that we should revert back to a world without sanitation, but as researchers, we need to challenge ourselves to understand why early exposure to microbes makes us less likely to be allergic. We need to harness their USP to help us reduce global allergy rates”

Allergens can find their way into the home from outdoors and Brits are making basic mistakes that are increasing their chances of suffering from allergies. Spending a day outdoors causes pollens and other allergens to stick to clothing, so experts suggest putting all clothes into the washing machine as soon as possible to avoid bedding down with pollen. There is no quick fix when it comes to allergies, but a proactive approach to managing an allergy is the best solution.