Seasonal allergies can cause unwanted irritation but they're not always the reason why you might feel itchier than normal. Your home could also be harboring some unexpected irritants that you aren't aware of. Here are 10 things that are commonly found in the home which may be to blame for your allergy symptoms, and how you can tackle them.
1. Scented Candles
The sweet aroma and gorgeous glow of scented candles makes them a popular fragranced product in the home. However burning scented candles can release chemicals into the air, including toluene and benzene which can raise the risk of an asthma attack. In addition to this, the fragrances used for the candles often contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that can trigger eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches and dizziness. If you regularly light scented candles and find yourself suffering from itchy eyes or other signs of irritation, you will need to stop using them. Alternatively, look out for soy, beeswax and palm wax candles scented with pure essential oils, as these don't contain harmful chemical fragrances.
2. Air Fresheners
Just like scented candles, the fragrances emitted from air fresheners can contain VOCs. Formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, limonene and alcohol are just some of the VOCs that are commonly present in air fresheners. These cause allergy symptoms such as runny, itchy noses, sneezing, coughing and asthma attacks. Try using natural scents to fragrance your home such as pure essential oils like lavender or rosemary.
If you wake up from your sleep to find dry, itchy scaly patches all over your body, you might be sharing your bed with dust mites. Pillows, mattresses and comforters are all hotbeds for dust mites, but as these critters are microscopic you probably won't be able to see them. To reduce your chances of suffering a reaction, regularly wash your linens and pillows in hot water (130 - 140 degrees). You can also buy mite-proof pillowcases and mattress protectors.
4. Soft Toys
Just like pillows and linens, soft toys can also harbor dust mites. Keep an eye on your little ones to see if they start scratching when they are cuddling their soft toys, as this could be caused by dust mites. Sleeping with soft toys also significantly increases the risk of contact with dust mites, so make sure you wash toys just as frequently and at the same temperature as bedding. Another method to control dust mite infestation in soft toys is placing the toy in a plastic bag and freezing it in a home freezer for at least 16 hours. Then remove the toy from the freezer and wash it in warm water before drying it thoroughly.
After you get out of the bath or shower you usually use a towel to dry off. However if the material of your towels feel dry and stiff, then you might be causing irritation to your skin without even realising it. Scratchy towels can leave your skin feeling itchy and cause severe dryness, which can lead to aging. Buy some softer towels which are gentler for the skin to reduce your risk of having irritated skin. Then put your old towels to good use by donating them to an animal shelter.
Surprisingly, millions of people who own pets are actually allergic to them on some scale. However, many pet lovers have learned how to cope with their allergies so they can keep their furry friend. If you own a cat, dog or other animal with fur or feathers, they will shed a substance called pet dander. This is composed of tiny microscopic flecks of skin which can quickly become airborne and trigger allergy symptoms such as itching and wheezing. To reduce the effect caused by pet dander, groom your pets outside of the home and keep them out of your bedroom and off the furniture. Clean your home often and vacuum frequently to ensure dust does not accumulate.
7. Leather Sofa
If you feel itchy after sitting on a leather sofa, it may not be the leather that you are allergic to, but dimethyl furnate instead. This substance is used for its antifungal properties as it stops the growth of mould on leather sofas. It's normally found in sachets which are stapled to the sofa and as the contents evaporate over time to prevent mould growth, they permeate the leather. Skin that comes into contact with dimethyl furnate can become itchy, scaly, swollen or red, so you might want to opt for a fabric sofa.
8. Vacuum Cleaner
You probably associate vacuum cleaners with cleanliness, and you're not wrong, but as well as getting rid of allergens they can also trigger them. Dust allergies are often worsened during and after vacuuming, sweeping and dusting, as this can stir up dust particles and cause you to inhale them. To reduce exposure to dust, swap your carpets for wooden flooring if possible. Also check that your vacuum has a HEPA filter, as these can trap fine particles which trigger allergy and asthma symptoms. If you're the allergy sufferer, consider wearing an N95 mask while cleaning as this has proven to be effective in preventing an allergic reaction.
Houseplants have several benefits including cleaning the air and boosting your happiness, but did you know that they also can cause you irritation? Unfortunately the soil in house plants and terrariums retain moisture which leads to mold growth. If you are allergic to mold, then you might experience symptoms such as itching and wheezing when near houseplants. To reduce your exposure to mold, you might have to get rid of your houseplants.
10. Dryer Sheets
The fresh smell of laundry after taking it out of the dryer may appear comforting, but it's not uncommon for dryer sheets to cause skin irritation or allergic dermatitis. The fragrances used in dryer sheets often contain chemicals that can trigger respiratory allergies and asthma when released in the air. For an alternative solution, there are some sheets which promote the use of natural ingredients for the smell, as well as ones that contain no fragrance. But honestly, you're probably better off discarding the dryer sheets altogether.