The changing of the seasons bring many wonderful phenomena, but one negative aspect of this beautiful time is allergies. If you are someone who suffers from allergies then you know the unpleasant side effects such as sneezing, itchy eyes or a runny nose, and while there are many treatments and medicines they only treat the symptoms instead of preventing allergies from occurring in the first place.
This article takes a look at what allergies are, and what causes them, before looking at some natural steps you can take to lessen your exposure to allergens and reduce the frequency and intensity of allergic reactions.
What exactly are allergies?
The most interesting thing about allergies is that the symptoms you associate with them are caused by your own body. They are your immune system’s natural defences against environmental substances. How our bodies respond to these substances (called allergens) varies from person to person, which is why some people experience mild to no symptoms when others have a severe allergic reaction. The majority of allergens are relatively harmless and only cause mild irritation, but some allergies can be life threatening particularly food and insect bite allergies.
For the purposes of this article we want to focus primarily on the most common type of allergy, allergic rhinitis (commonly called hay fever), which affects more people than the other allergy types.
Causes of allergies in your home
All allergies are caused by exposure to allergens, and while it is possible to keep your home completely free of certain allergens, many are far harder to control. That said, by better understanding what substances cause allergic reactions we can devise natural ways to reduce our exposure in the home.
Pollen is the allergen most commonly associated with hay fever. Pollen allergies are most prevalent in the spring, autumn and summer months when plants are releasing their pollen spores into the atmosphere to reproduce.
Dust allergies can be some of the most frustrating to deal with as they are not seasonal like pollen. These allergies aren’t actually caused by the dust itself, but rather dust mites, which are tiny organisms that live in dust. These organisms can also build up in bedroom linen and carpets leading to allergic reactions even when a room isn’t noticeably dusty.
Unlike pollen and dust allergies which are caused by breathing in allergens, fabric allergies are caused by the treatments found on certain fabrics. This results in symptoms manifesting on the skin in the form of contact dermatitis (redness, scaling and itching of the skin). However, serious fabric allergies can cause more severe symptoms such as burning eyes or shortness of breath.
Mould allergies are caused by the tiny spores that moulds release into the air when they are disturbed. While most people can breath in mould spores without serious repercussions, in certain cases the immune system will overreact to mould spores causing symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.
Food allergies are amongst the most severe allergic reactions and in extreme cases can lead to serious illness or death. While food allergies only affect about 3% of the population, their potential danger means that medical attention should be sought immediately after symptoms manifest.
Symptoms of allergies
As we have mentioned earlier the symptoms of allergies are actually caused by your body’s immune system reacting to allergens. Common symptoms such as a runny nose or watery eyes are natural defense mechanisms. In some cases your body will “remember” an allergic reaction and any future exposure to an allergen, no matter how small, will trigger a full reaction. Let’s take a deeper look at what causes these symptoms.
A runny nose is one of the most prevalent symptoms of respiratory tract allergies. Mucus in the nasal passages is a defensive mechanism that traps substances before they enter your lungs. When you have an allergic reaction your body over-produces this mucus leading to a runny nose.
Itchy or scratchy eyes
Itchy eyes are another symptom that is often associated with hayfever, but can be caused by a wide variety of allergens. As part of your natural defence the body releases compounds called histamines in the tissues around the eyes, which can cause itching, redness and swelling.
You can think of sneezing as a more extreme version of the runny nose. When the irritation from allergens such as dust mites becomes intense enough your body will attempt to expel the mucus, and the irritant trapped within, as a sneeze.
The same histamines that cause itchy eyes also cause your eyes to water. The swelling caused by these histamines places pressure on your tear ducts which in turn makes your eyes water.
Allergy-proof your home
While we may not be able to control how our bodies respond to allergens we can take steps to limit our exposure to them. This section of the article looks at some methods you can take to allergy-proof your home.
If you are suffering from allergies you might want to consider removing the carpets in your home. The fibres in carpets trap allergens, so wood, tile, concrete or linoleum floors are better options if you are particularly sensitive.
Increase air flow
This point cannot be emphasised enough, promoting airflow in your home stops the build up of allergens. Proper ventilation can also reduce humidity which prevents the build up of allergy causing moulds. One great way to improve airflow is to install a lockable window latch, such as the LockLatch or MiniLatch. These devices allow you to keep your windows open without compromising on security, allowing you to maximise the airflow in your home for longer periods.
While some plants can cause allergic reactions others have the ability to purify the air and filter out allergens. While it can be difficult to know which plants to choose there is a wealth of information available online and this article from gardeningknowhow.com provides a good starting point.
Regular cleaning is another simple and cost effective way to reduce the amount of allergens in your home. While general cleaning will remove dust and mould which cause related allergies, a deeper clean of your bedding and carpets will go a long way towards freeing your home of allergens.
Temperature control and humidity
Certain allergens such as mould spores are highly dependent on moisture and temperature to survive. By controlling the temperature and humidity of your home, either with a HVAC device or with natural airflow you can stop these allergen build ups before they occur.
Good air filtration system with a clean filter
If you are using any form of mechanical ventilation such as an air conditioning unit, it is important to ensure that an adequate filter is installed and that the filter is clean. This will go a long way in reducing the amount of allergens in your home.
Home remedies to prevent allergies
Now that we’ve looked at measures you can take in the home, let’s look at some home remedies which can help prevent allergies taking hold of your body.
Eat allergy immune boosting foods
A balanced, healthy diet is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and this rule also applies to preventing allergies. Certain foods can boost your immune system while others help relieve symptoms such as inflammation. If you are curious as to which foods you should try take a look at this article from healthline.com.
Natural home ventilation
One of your most effective means of dispersing allergens is ensuring your home has natural airflow moving though it. This isn’t always as simple as opening a window, since you need air to move through the home. A lockable window latch such as LockLatch will allow you to keep windows open on opposite sides of the house meaning air will move through the room and take allergens with it.
Probiotics improve the health of your gut and stop allergens seeping through and activating your immune system. A healthy gut also means a more robust immune system, which can help prevent an allergy from taking hold.
Citrus fruits are excellent sources of immune boosting Vitamin C. Eating foods high in vitamin C has been shown to decrease allergic rhinitis, the allergic reactions commonly associated with hay fever.
Water really is a miracle treatment for ailments. In the case of allergies, proper hydration allows your body to better deal with allergens, and reduces the production of histamines, which cause many of the allergic symptoms.
Treating allergies naturally
If you are suffering from allergies then preventative measures might not be enough. Luckily there are a number of natural measures you can take to help alleviate the symptoms if your antihistamines aren’t doing the job.
Cleansing the nose with saline solution
This will help reduce the mucus buildup allowing you to breathe more easily. It also reduces swelling in the nasal cavities, which can cause pain and discomfort.
Acupuncture not only triggers the release of endorphins which can help reduce the uncomfortable symptoms of allergies, but this process has also been shown to reduce the inflammation that causes much of the discomfort we experience when allergies take hold.
Steam inhalation is another great treatment to relieve allergy symptoms and 100% natural and non invasive. You simply put some boiling water in a bowl, drape a towel over your head and take deep breaths for about 10 minutes. This will help clear your nasal passages allowing you to breathe easier.
Increased home ventilation and airflow
Although allergens are often airborne they are most harmful when they are allowed to build up and reach a critical mass to trigger an allergic reaction. This means that one of the most effective natural remedies is simply increasing your home’s ventilation. LockLatch and MiniLatch allow you to do just that, by letting you keep your doors and windows open wide enough to let fresh air in, while the adjustable, stainless steel arm keeps them securely locked. LockLatch installs in minutes on any type of door or window making it perfect for just about any type of home.
LockLatch- Leave any window or door open, but locked.
Why not start your allergy free journey by improving airflow in your home with a LockLatch. Improved airflow doesn’t just help with allergies, but has a host of other advantages for your health and wellbeing.