Indoor Allergies

Behind closed doors, indoor allergies can attack inside your home, school, office or factory. Any enclosed environment has the potential to harbor the typical triggers of indoor allergies such as dust and dust mites, mold, pet dander, and cockroaches.

Avoiding triggers is key to avoiding indoor allergy symptoms: minimizing fabric in floor, furniture, and window coverings and sending your dog and cat to their own beds outside your bedroom at night. If you notice that being indoors prompts allergy symptoms, consider asking a doctor who specializes in allergies to conduct tests to pinpoint the problem.

Your health professional can help diagnose your allergies and plot ways to deal with them.

  • Dust Mites

    Can you be allergic to something you can’t  even see? Of course!

    Dust mites are such small, microscopic creatures that we can’t see them with the naked eye. They live in our homes, feasting on skin flakes we shed every day.

    Lots of us are allergic to dust mites.

    Adult humans shed as much as 1.5 grams of skin in a single day. This is a smorgasbord that can feed as many as 1 million dust mites. The mites also produce waste products. (i)

    The eight-legged mites and their feces are allergens for many people with indoor allergies. This dust mite detritus gets tossed into the air when you walk on carpets and rugs or flop down on your mattress and pillow for a good night’s sleep.

    You might love those soft, cozy spots in your home, but so do dust mites. They thrive in temperatures between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity of 70 to 80 percent.

    If your immune system is sensitive to the presence of dust mites, they’ll trigger allergy symptoms when you are indoors, no matter if the weather outdoors is warm or cold.

    These symptoms include: sneezing; runny nose; itchy and watery eyes; stuffy nose; itchy nose, mouth or throat; itchy skin; post-nasal drip; and cough.

    To make your environment less welcoming to dust mites, keep indoor humidity levels in the 30 percent to 50 percent range. (ii)

    Use wood, leather, or vinyl furniture, instead of furniture upholstered in fabric.


    Don’t use carpeting on floors. Wash bedding weekly, including pillows, once a week in water  with a temperature of 130 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. (iii)

  • Mold

    Mold is a perfect example of a two-faced allergy: It could be both an indoor allergy and an outdoor allergy.

    Outside, you might encounter mold in a pile of fallen leaves or on rotting wood.

    Indoors, mold is most likely to occur in damp areas such as a kitchen, laundry area, basement, or bathroom. Also consider mold prone items that are kept indoors, such as books, stuffed animal toys, wallpaper. But any damp, dark location can harbor the yuk.

    As a fungus, mold reproduces by releasing spores in the air. Breathing in or touching these spores, which are invisible to the human eye, can trigger allergic reactions or even asthma. (iv)

    Mold allergy symptoms can mimic other allergies, with sneezing, itching, runny nose and congestion among the most common symptoms.

    Avoiding mold is the best way to stave off  these allergies. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation provide these suggestions for minimizing indoor mold: (v)

    • Use central air conditioning with a special anti-allergy filter.

    • Reduce humidity. Below 45% is good, below 35% is better.

    • Use exhaust fans.

    • Fix leaks.

    • Make sure rain water drains away from your house.

  • Pet Dander

    We love our furry pets. But people with a sensitive immune system may not love the allergens that come with having a pet as part of the family.

    Stuffy nose, congestion, swelling, and itching of eyes are not nearly as fun as playing with a pet.

    These allergic reactions are caused by exposure to the dander (skin flakes), saliva and urine of cats and dogs on clothing, furniture, carpets, or the animal itself.

    Allergen-producing pets include mice, gerbils, hamster, guinea pigs, rabbits, horses, birds. (vi)

    Allergens, disturbed by vacuuming or other movement, may float around in the air, get into the lungs and prompt allergy or even asthma symptoms: coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath among them. Symptoms may occur immediately or several days post-exposure. Asthma requires medical treatment.

    Pet allergies can be prevented by simply not having a pet in the house; if you don’t know whether you’re sensitive to pets, have allergy tests at the doctor’s office before acquiring a pet. You could opt for pets without fur or feathers such as fish.

    Other measures may reduce your exposure to pet allergens:

    • A no-pets-allowed policy in bedrooms

    • Keep floors bare and clean – no carpets or rugs

    • Change clothes following animal exposure

    • Insert allergy friendly filters on your room air cleaners as well as heating and air conditioning units and vents

    • Mask up while dusting and vacuuming (vii)