What is an Allergy?
An allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to an inappropriate stimulus, such as dust, pollen, grass, pet dander, mold, etc. The immune system believes it is being invaded by a parasite rather than a harmless allergen in the environment, and therefore it rallies its defenses to fight off the enemy.
The list of symptoms caused by allergies is longer than you might think. Primary signs of allergies include:
- Runny or congested nose
- Watery and itchy eyes
- Frequent ear infections
- Sinus headaches
- Nasal polyps
- Conjunctivitis (eye irritation)
- Muscle/joint pain
- Skin rashes and eczema
- Mental problems such as confusion, slow thinking, depression and forgetfulness
- Respiratory effects including endless colds, chronic cough, recurrent bronchitis
Of course, there are many possible reasons for these symptoms. The only way to know if they are caused by allergies is to take an allergy test. AllerVision offers a pain-free skin test that provides answers in just 15-minutes. Any AllerVision-affiliated medical clinic will have the ability to perform the test and read the results on the spot.
There are many items in the environment that could cause your allergies. They fall into four general categories:
- Animal dander — from dogs, cats and cockroaches
- Mold and mildew
- Dust mites
- Pollen — from trees, grass and weeds
Animal Dander (Year-round)
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not animal fur that causes allergies, it’s a protein in their saliva. When animals lick themselves, the protein attaches to the fur and that’s when it becomes the problem. Then animals shed and their fur sticks in carpeting, upholstery, etc. where it can stay for months.
The same protein found in saliva is also present in animals’ urine. Therefore, gerbils, hamsters and other small caged animals could cause problems for allergy-prone individuals.
Pets aren’t the only problem. Cockroaches, common to tropical areas, also contribute large allergen particles to the space around us. Proteins in their saliva and feces become airborne easily and circulate through the air without your knowledge.
Mold and Mildew (Year-round, Especially Bad in Rainy Seasons)
Simply put, mold is bad. So bad that exposure sometimes seriously affects non-allergic people. Mold reproduces when airborne spores land on wet surfaces, so any room with moisture is vulnerable, especially those that don’t dry thoroughly (like bathrooms counters, showers and bathtubs, and refrigerator drip trays). Also, plumbing leaks could cause major problems to your home and your health if they’re not fixed immediately.
Dust Mites (Year-round)
These microscopic creatures can create big allergy problems. As they float through the air or reproduce in carpeting, upholstery and bedding, the protein in their droppings pollute the environment and cause perennial problems for a many allergy sufferers. Vacuuming, dusting with a damp cloth, and washing sheets regularly can help but, unfortunately, dust mites are hard to completely avoid.
Have you ever rolled in the grass and then started itching? It’s allergies. The worst offenders are Bermuda, Johnson, Kentucky bluegrass, Orchard, Sweet vernal, and Timothy grasses. When lawn mowers cut them, the pollen starts flying. Keep in mind that pollen can stow away on you clothes and on your pets, so vacuum and shower frequently.
Tree pollen is another big troublemaker, and these varieties are especially to blame: sycamore, hickory, walnut, pecan, poplar, cottonwood, box elder, red maple, silver maple, willow, ash, date palm and Phoenix palm trees. Some people have cross-reactions to alder, beech, birch, oak, juniper, and cedar families as well. Removing these trees from your garden may be of little help to allergies; tree pollen can travel up to 50 miles on a strong wind.
Weeds are not only the bane of existence to gardeners, but also allergy sufferers, as they are regular pollen factories. Ragweed is the worst offender, as one plant can release 1 million grains of pollen each day. Other troublemakers are sagebrush, redroot, pigweed, lamb’s quarters, Russian thistle (tumbleweed) and English plantain.