It's summer and with allergies on the rise, now is the time to get them under control and put an end to suffering.
Most of us are affected by allergies at some point in our lives. Allergies are one of the most prevalent chronic health conditions in Europe, with more than 150 million Europeans suffering daily (EAACI, 2016). In Britain alone, over 20% of the population is affected. Making the UK population one of the biggest sufferers of allergies in the world (M. L. Levy, 2004).
What is an allergy?
An allergy, or allergic disease, is a sensitivity in the immune system which triggers a reaction in our bodies when we’re exposed to certain substances in the environment. They can be triggered by almost anything. Some of the most common types of allergies are, food allergies, hay fever, and asthma.
The science behind an allergy involves our immunoglobulin E antibodies. These antibodies, found in the body’s immune system, bind to allergens and then to a receptor on a mast cell. This binding triggers the release of a protein called Histamine. And it's the Histamine that causes the a reaction. For hay fever sufferers, it's the cells in the nostrils that produce Histamine when they're exposed to pollen. Causing a runny nose.
Recent scientific research published by the Society of Asthma, Allergy and Clinical Immunology (AACI), suggests that there is a strong link between the health of our microbiome (the collection of microorganisms that inhabit our bodies) and our immune system. Findings indicate that because we are exposing ourselves to fewer microorganisms through the use of antibiotics and changes to our diet, for example, our susceptibility to asthma and allergies is increasing.
Symptoms vary greatly depending on the allergy. There are many factors which determine the type and severity of symptoms. Such as the amount of exposure we have to the allergen, the type of allergy, and even our genetics. Symptoms usually include: a runny nose, itching and sneezing, and hives or a rash on the skin. The most severe allergic reaction is called Anaphylaxis. This particular type of reaction needs to be treated immediately as it can become life threatening if left un-treated. A person suffering from Anaphylaxis shows the usual allergy symptoms, such as a runny nose and skin rash, however these symptoms then develop into vomiting/diarrhea or cramps, dizziness and fainting, shortness of breath and swelling and itching of the skin, throat and mouth.
Avoiding allergic reactions
An all-out cure for allergies has not yet been discovered, however there are ways to avoid suffering reactions. Doctors recommend two techniques; avoidance and medication. Once identified, certain allergens can be avoided, however some of the most common allergens, such as pollen, are almost impossible to stay away from.
Medication in the form of a pill can help relieve symptoms but making lifestyle changes can be the key to living a normal life with allergies. There is mounting evidence to suggest that exposing ourselves to lots of different strains of gut friendly bacteria (symbiotic microorganisms) through diet and environment, can help regulate our immune system. However, keeping a clean and tidy home, free from allergens and irritants can also help avoid reactions.
Here's our top 5 tips for avoiding allergens in your home:
- Keep on top of washing
Bedding, pillows, and other items such as throws, rugs or blankets provide the perfect environment for dust mites to thrive. Up to 57% of adult patients and up to 88% of children have allergy related sleep problems leading to tiredness during the day and lack of concentration (Pawankar R, et al, 2013). Keeping your bedroom allergen free will help you to get a good, uninterrupted night’s sleep. Aim to wash your bedding at a hot temperature (60 degrees) at least once a week. Also, try to avoid highly perfumed, biological washing detergents as these can trigger reactions.
- Dust – there’s a correct way to do it?
Yes, there is. With dust comes dust mites, also known as one of the biggest indoor allergens. You may think dusting your home regularly is a simple day-to-day task, but just wiping away the dust with any old cloth can make matters worse by stirring up allergen particles and scattering them into the air. Make sure you use a damp cloth or a specially treated dust cloth to wipe surfaces. This ensures the dust sticks firmly to the cloth. Wearing a mask while dusting and minimizing clutter around the home, can also help.
- Clean the environmentally friendly way
Harsh chemical cleaning products can trigger allergies. So, swap the harsh chemicals for a greener clean! There are a lot of environmentally (and human) friendly options available in supermarkets which contain more natural ingredients to leave your home clean and fresh without the potentially dangerous chemicals. Alternatively, it is super easy to make your own cleaning products at home using baking powder and vinegar.
- Defend against mould
Mould spores can trigger allergy symptoms but avoiding them can be easy if you know how. Mould gathers in damp areas, usually in the bathroom, so ensuring the room is fully protected against mould is vital. Use tiles or mould resistant paint on the walls, and regularly scrub away any mould starting to form. Replace your shower curtain when it begins to look mouldy, and use a dehumidifier or fan to reduce moisture, especially after taking a shower.
- How can HEPA help?
High-efficiency particulate air filters, more commonly known as HEPA filters, are designed to capture microscopic dust particles without blowing allergens into the air. Some air purifiers and vacuum cleaners contain HEPA filters that capture and trap extra fine dust particles (as small as 0.3 microns). Standard vacuum cleaner filters simply re-release allergens back into the room. Be careful to check that the filter in the machine you buy is a certified class H13 filter, as there are many HEPA 'type' filters posing as the genuine article. Here at Cleva we have many vacuum cleaners with certified H13 HEPA filters. Including cordless vacuum cleaners from our household Joey range