Allergic reactions occur in many forms and places on the body. The key to minimizing allergic reactions is to identify the trigger, and then avoid it. Here are six common allergens and how to avoid them in your daily life.
1. Dust mites. The most common indoor allergen is the house dust mite, which is the allergenic component of household dust. You can decrease dust mites by keeping your living quarters free of carpeting and rugs, where a lot of dust can hide. Buy synthetic bedding for your bed, since goose and down are magnets for dust. You can also encase your mattress, pillows and covers in dust mite-proof covers, and wash bedding in hot water once a week. Another good way is dehumidifying your house to less than 50% humidity.
2. Pet allergies. Many pet allergies are caused by an allergic reaction to dander, felt and saliva that pets leave behind. The severity of the reaction and type of reaction can vary from person to person and can range from a little itching to shortness of breath and hives. If you are allergic to dogs or cats, avoiding these animals helps. If you’re reluctant to give up the family pet, you can limit your exposure by setting house rules to keep pets off the furniture and out of the bedroom. Use air filters and wash your face and hands after animal exposure. Use antihistamine pills and nose sprays to reduce symptoms.
3. Nickel. The metal nickel is one of the most common types of contact allergens. It’s used in costume jewelry, piercing jewelry, and even 14k and 18k gold jewelry. Nickel can also be found in snaps and zippers on clothing. If the spot where the button on your jeans touches your skin is often irritated, chances are you have a nickel allergy. If you suspect nickel allergy, get tested and cover nickel-containing objects in clear nail polish to prevent reactions.
4. Beauty products. Some of the most common contact allergens in your household include the stuff you slather on your hair and body. Products like hair dye, nail care products, make-up, perfumes and fragrances, and sunscreens cause allergic reactions in many people. Usually reactions from these types of ingredients are site-dependent. For example, if you have an itchy rash on your eyelid, it can be something in your eye makeup. Nail care products usually contain a formaldehyde resin, which causes allergic reactions in many people. Nail polish, nail hardeners, and artificial nails can all set off an allergic reaction on your face, neck and eyelids. Try using beauty products that are both fragrance-free and hypoallergenic.
5. Laundry. I recommend that my patients wash their own clothes rather than use a laundry service. If you have sensitive skin, and you think the detergent or fabric softener is to blame, you can try different laundry products until you find the right one for you and your skin. Look for hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, clear detergents, and skip the fabric softener.
6. Latex. Another common allergen is latex (or natural rubber compound). Waistbands, bras, rubber gloves, condoms, and children’s toys are some of the most common items where latex is found. Besides irritating the skin, latex can cause hives, asthma symptoms, and even life-threatening anaphylactic reactions. If you are sensitive to latex, either avoid, or cover clothes that have exposed rubber parts. Use vinyl condoms and don’t wear “natural” rubber gloves. Always mention to your healthcare provider that you have a serious allergy to latex before they put on gloves or use other rubber and latex products.
In the meantime, while you’re figuring out what is causing your reaction, do whatever you can to make yourself comfortable. Many people use antihistamine pills, eye drops, nose sprays, and various types of creams to help ease allergic symptoms.
He is a HealthGrades Recognized Doctor.