Anyone who is dealing with allergies knows what a struggle it is, and according to the data from Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, nearly one-third of the US population have some type of allergy. Most common allergens are pollen, dust, pet dander, mold, but also some types of food, and many other unexpected things. Symptoms such as itchy throat, teary eyes, and runny nose, may sound harmless but they can become so intense that they can hinder your daily activities, and in some severe cases even can cause death.
Today we will be talking about all the things that we can do in order to make our home allergy-proof. Since our house is the place where we spend the vast majority of our time, we want it to be safe for our health. While some allergens are specific for outdoor surroundings, such as pollen, a vast number of them can be found inside of our homes; thus they represent a potential threat to our health, and we need to take care of them. But, before we jump into practical advice, let’s see how what are allergies and how they can impact our sleep.
People who suffer from allergies are usually entirely healthy, but slightly over-reactive, which means that their body releases histamine-like chemicals to get rid of allergens, substances that are otherwise harmless. Histamine forces our body to remove allergens through our nose, eyes, or mouth, and that is how your symptoms are caused.
The vast majority of allergies are triggered by the things we breathe in, so there is something in the air that causes symptoms such as sneezing, itchy nose, eyes or throat, etc. But a lot of these symptoms are similar to the ones we experience when we catch a cold, and it is easy to confuse these two conditions. The duration of the symptoms is one of the important indicators, a cold can last from 3 to 14 days, but allergies can stay around for months if people do not reduce their exposure to whatever is causing their symptoms. Another way to differentiate them is to pay attention to the type of your symptoms, a cold would rarely cause your eyes to be itchy or watery, but an allergy will do that for sure. If you are feeling any pains, aches, it is probably a cold, allergies can make your life difficult in so many ways, but they will not cause you pain, the same thing is with fever.
Allergens, which are everywhere, cause allergies, and the most common ones are pollen, dust mites, spores, mold, dust, and pet dander, and there is no way to eliminate them, the most you can do is to take an allergy test and find out which ones affect you and then try to avoid them as much as possible.
We differentiate two main categories of allergens, seasonal and year-round. As their name suggests, seasonal ones are attached to a specific season, and they are triggered by particular pollen or spores coming from the grass, trees, and other things that flare up seasonally. For example, in spring most of the pollen allergies come from grass and trees, in the summer it is the same, but in the places that are mainly hot and humid, mold can expand quickly also. Autumn is another humid season, suitable for mold and mildew which develops on wet soils and grass, but also for ragweed, which is the leading allergen of the season. Winter is a bit more specific, due to the lower outdoor temperatures there is barely any pollen or other allergens outside, but inside of the house, where we spend the majority of our time during the winter, there is always some dust, pet dander, mildew, etc. to which many people are sensitive.
Year-round allergies are the ones concentrated indoors, which is somewhat the topic of today’s post, and they are always present, but usually more prominent during the winter. While the days are cold, we spent more time inside; windows are shut most of the time, a lot of people use fireplaces, heating vents are not cleaned as often as they should, which all creates conditions suitable for dust pilling, and lowers the air quality. If you live with pets, they are in your home all the time, but during the winter they do not spend much time outside, and that is when they scatter their dander wherever they go, a protein that can be found in their dander, urine, and saliva causes allergy symptoms in people.
Allergies and Sleep
It is not hard to assume that if you have any of the symptoms, you will probably have some issues with your sleep, it is inevitable. A study showed that around 48% of seasonally allergic people had disrupted sleep. These people are more prone to developing sleep disorders, such as insomnia, chronic sleep deprivation, daytime fatigue, etc.
If you often wake up in the middle of the night to sneeze, cough, or you cannot breathe, these are the signs that your allergy is taking over the control, and depending on the type of allergen you need to see what kind of precaution measures can you take. Waking up often during the night will mess up your sleep routine, your body will not be able to rest properly, and you will be fatigued on the day after. Some more extreme types of allergies can cause snoring, or sleep apnea if you have a child dealing with allergic rhinitis than pay special attention to these symptoms.
Getting rid of an allergy is almost impossible, the best you can do is to keep those symptoms under control, but first, pay a visit to a doctor, take the tests so that you can know for sure which things are you sensitive, and then follow the guidelines. Possible treatments for alleviating the symptoms include eye-drops, prescribed medications, nose sprays, or some lifestyle changes, for example, if your pet is causing you those symptoms, then maybe keeping him outside of the house, or taking him to your parent’s home, etc. Even the same type of allergy differs from one person to another, the severity of the symptoms does not have to be on the same level; hence, everyone needs to try different things until they find the right one, sometimes, simple things, like removing all the carpets, can create a significant difference.
Tips For an Allergy-Proof Bedroom
Out of all the places in the house, the bedroom is one room which should always represent our oasis and sleep sanctuary; hence, it is crucial to create a safe and pleasant environment. People who are suffering from allergies know how difficult it is when they wake up often due to their symptoms, so the best they can do is to ensure that their bedroom is allergy-proof, but how to achieve that? Here are some of our suggestions on how to improve the quality of the time you spend in your bedroom, and most importantly, how to keep the allergens away from it.
- Bed and bedding. As our first recommendation, we would like to start with the primary and necessary things, which is the bed and its bedding. If possible, shop for bedding which is made from natural materials, and check the declarations to see if they claim it is hypoallergenic. We recommend opting for mattresses made of all-latex, organic wool, or cotton, because they are a great choice, except if you have a wool allergy (although that one is pretty controversial since not everyone agrees that such thing exists). When choosing a blanket, pillow, or a comforter, avoid materials such as down, feather, or wool, because they can trigger allergic reactions.
- Dust-mite covers. Dust mites are tiny, microscopic creatures, which enjoy living in our mattresses, bedding, carpets, etc. To protect your bedding from them, it is the best to use dust-mite covers, which can be found for mattresses, pillows, or even box springs. One study showed that children who were less exposed to dust mites had fewer chances to experience asthma complications; hence, it is essential to protect their beds and bedding and raise them in a safe and healthy environment.
- Laundry. When washing your sheets, pillowcases, blankets, and all other parts of bedding, it is mandatory to wash them in hot water, on 130F, or 54C, at least, although we highly recommend using even higher temperatures because they will be able to kill any germs, dust mites, and keep your bedding hygienic.
- Windows. It is essential to let the air inside your bedroom, but make sure your windows are always clean, and we are not talking about the rain stains or fingerprint marks. Window frames and sills are a perfect place for mold to pile up, so it is essential to clean them as soon as you notice any marks and condensation stains. Also, if you use curtains, wash them regularly.
- Environment. The bedroom should be neat and tidy, without clutter and unnecessary stuff, but also pay attention to the materials your furniture is made. If you have an opportunity to choose and furnish the bedroom on your terms, go for the materials which are sleek and easy for maintenance, for example, wood, leather, plastic, or metal. Upholstered furniture is harder to clean, and it catches more allergens. Besides that, remove everything that could be a potential dust collector, such as books, because dust quickly accumulates around them, and to be honest, none of us likes to clean the dust every single day.
- Carpets. If you are prone to allergies or already suffering from them, the best is to remove all the rugs from the house, if that is not an option, then at least throw out the ones in your bedroom. Fuzzy carpets are a nice touch that warms up every room, but they are such dust and germ collectors, and no matter how often you vacuum them, it is impossible to keep them clean and safe all the time. Avoid wall-to-wall carpets, or placing a rug directly over concrete. We recommend installing wooden floors or linoleum flooring, or if that is not possible, at least use low-pile carpets, they are easier to maintain and would not collect as much dust. To keep your carpet free of any allergens you need to vacuum it as often as possible, and the best is to do it with vacuums that have air filters, or HEPA filter. Also, try using a dust mask while vacuuming, so that you cannot inhale the dust flowing around in the air.
- Bedroom air. Warm and humid surroundings are what molds and mildew prefer, so it is essential to use air conditioners of fans when it is too hot, it is better than relying on the outdoor breeze. If you live in an area with a tropical climate, you should invest in a dehumidifier or air purifiers to can reduce the humidity in your bedroom and ensure the air is always fresh.. Dust mites cannot bread as much when the temperature is below 77F. Another option is to use air-filtration systems with HEPA filter or small-particle filter, they will keep the air in your bedroom fresh and healthy, and can work with central or portable AC units, as well as with heating systems.
- Pets. As much as you love your pets, maybe it is not the best idea to share your bedroom with them. Pet dander, urine, saliva, fur, all carry different allergens, so ideally your pet should at least sleep in another room. This can get quite tricky if children become allergic to their pets, since they bond so quickly, and some things are better to prevent on time. Test your kids on allergens and do not let the pets sleep in the same bed with them. Also, keep your pets clean and wash them regularly.
How to Treat Allergies?
Besides practicing all the above-listed advice for a clean and healthy sleep environment, you will, of course, have to take some other measures to reduce your symptoms and go through another allergy season as easily as possible. Allergy control begins from your home, that is why all those things are vital, medical help will not work if you do not get rid of the allergens or at least reduce your exposure to them.
- Steroid nasal sprays are invented to prevent your immune system from overreacting to common allergy triggers, they are not always the best solution, but it is probably what any doctor would recommend you to begin with.
- Saline nasal flushes are a temporary solution for nasal congestion, they are efficient, but the effect does not last long, and after a few hours you will need to use them again.
- Nasal decongestant sprays are also used to clear a stuffy nose, but they should not be used for more than three consecutive days, because after that time they are not as efficient
- Antihistamines should dry runny nose, but they come with side effects, such as dizziness, hangover effect, sleepiness, and even blurry vision, so use them only if there is no other choice, and do not exaggerate with the amount, they are not meant for long-term use.
- Nasal decongestant liquids and pills can have a long-term effect and relieve the symptoms significantly, but it is not recommended to use them at night, because depending on their composition, some of them can keep you wide awake. Read the labels and avoid the ones containing phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine.
- Corticosteroid creams can help reduce allergy-related skin rashes, inflammation, and itching. They are also available in the form of pills, and some milder version can be bought without prescription while for the strong ones a medical prescription is required.
- Immunotherapy is a long-term option for those who have chronic allergy symptoms or have been bitten by some insects.
- A healthy diet is one way of dealing with different food allergies, but it should be done only in consultation with a dietitian because foods need to be eliminated in a way so that they do not jeopardize patients’ health. If you are allergic to nuts or peanuts, you can stop eating them, and the problem is solved, but if you are allergic to milk, that means that you need to find alternative sources of proteins and calcium.
- Homemade remedies are still waiting to be scientifically proven as effective solutions, but again, a lot of people believe in them. One natural and harmless home remedy is raw honey. Many food experts claim that eating local, raw honey will reduce pollen allergies, in a way similar to allergy shots. Other home remedies include herbal teas made from gingko, red clover, yarrow, milk thistle, etc. Another popular herb is Butterbur, and its extracts are often used for migraine treatments, as well as for cramps and allergies.
- Acupuncture is, according to one review which gathered the data from different studies, very helpful in reducing the symptoms of seasonal and perennial allergies, because it impacts our immune system.