Keep household allergies at bay

With these simple tricks, banish the nasties in your house that make you cough and wheeze

The very thought of them makes you scratch and itch - and now the dust mite has become increasingly responsible for a rise in household allergies.

Instances of perennial allergic rhinitis, or home fever, have shot up in our urban homes, making people allergic to their own abodes. Unlike regular hay fever, triggered by high seasonal pollen levels, home fever is caused by allergens such as dust mites, moulds, cleaning products and pets. Since these are present all around the year, they can catch you unawares any time.

With the most common symptoms of an indoor allergy or home fever being a runny nose and sneezing, people all too often confuse symptoms with a common cold or flu and don't treat the causeof the problem. While curing home fever is tough, here's how you can fight back:

Room spray
This is one of the most common causes of allergic reactions and is even known to trigger asthma attacks. Room sprays are unnecessary if you keep your house clean, don't smoke indoors and open your windows regularly. There's also an alternative - create your own by mixing a tablespoon each of bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice with warm water.

Dust mites
Your bed provides the ideal environment for dust mites to thrive because in them they can feed on skin cells, obtain warmth from your body and gather water from your sweat. Their droppings, though invisible to the naked eye, are responsible for causing the majority of allergic reactions. To eliminate them, use allergen-proof barrier covers on all mattresses, bedspreads and pillows. Wash your sheets and blankets every week, ideally at 60 degrees or above. Also, change your mattress every eight to 10 years, and replace pillows every 12 months.
Cat and dog dander, which are flakes of dead skin that collect on fur and other surfaces, contain allergens that can cause serious asthma attacks. Pets also carry outdoor allergens back inside on their coats. Keep your pets in well-ventilated rooms and never let them sleep on the beds or furniture. Wipe pets down after long walks and wash their bedding weekly. You could try a pet cleanser which removes allergens from coats.
This is a type of fungi that grows best in damp and poorly-ventilated areas. To stop it developing, simply reduce humidity by increasing ventilation. Use trickle vents in double glazing or just open your windows. Extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens are also useful at getting rid of steam. Avoid hanging damp clothes in the house to dry. Also, try an air purifier to trap mould spores.
If allergic, remove as many of the carpets in your house as possible and replace with solid wood flooring. New carpets in particular are full of noxious chemicals that can be inhaled for months and could trigger allergic reactions. If you do have carpets, regularly use a high-temperature steam cleaner to get rid of any dust mites.
Avoid furniture and shelving made from chipboard or manufactured wood as these may contain formaldehyde - a chemical that can give off a colourless gas that irritates the airways. Your best bet is to invest in solid wood furniture in the long run.
All perfumes, hairsprays, shampoos and soaps have the potential to cause nasty skin reactions. Try to use scentless products when you can, and dab natural oils on your clothes instead of processed ones.
Indoor plants and flowers can produce pollen so avoid having them in the house if they cause sneezing. Speak with garden experts to find the best plants for indoors. Be aware that planters, soil and old leaves can serve as great hiding places for mould.
Soft toys
Dust mites are commonly found in furry toys so it's really important to keep them irritant-free. Washable stuffed toys should be sent tumbling through the washing machine on a regular basis. While children at home would be aghast at the thought, it would help if you place the furries in a plastic bag in the freezer for at least 12 hours once a month, and then wash them at a lower temperature if needed.

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