Ten allergen sources lurking in our homes
Representational image. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: One in three UAE residents suffers from an allergy during summer when dust and humidity are high, say health experts.

Dr Sanjeev Awasthi

Dr Sanjeev Awasthi, specialist ENT surgeon at the Emirates Hospital Clinic in Ras Al Khaimah, said: “The most common allergy is hay fever or allergic rhinitis. People are susceptible to outdoor allergens (flying pollen) and indoor allergens as they inhale dust along with fine mites and in many cases, fungal spores. Patients report either frequent nose blocks or runny noses, itchy eyes, itchy palates and sneezing. These symptoms are the body’s inflammatory response to dust, pollen and mites, creating antibodies for protection.”

Dr Sandeep Pargi

Explaining why the allergy index is high during the summer months, Dr Sandeep Pargi, specialist pulmonologist at the Aster Mankhool Hospital, said: “Dust in this region contains fine silica particles. They not only cover our nasal passage, but can also reach the upper parts of our lungs. We inhale this mixed with pollen and it triggers an allergic response.

“At home, indoor air contains the debris of dust mites along with slica and other allergens. Dust mites are fine microorganisms which attach to fibres of furnishings, carpets and rugs. When we inhale, it triggers a histamine response from our body, which includes a runny nose, itchy eyes, etc. Those who are already predisposed to allergies and asthma manifest a definite response. Healthy people with no history of asthma too are likely to fall ill with exposure,” he explained.

One of the most common allergy triggers is unclean air-conditioning duct. Cool, damp and humid ducts, when not cleaned frequently, become breeding grounds for molds, fungus and bacteria. When the air-conditioning is switched on, these fine particles fly through the air and are inhaled, triggering strong allergies.

How to fight allergies

“We classify allergies into mild, moderate and severe categories,” said Dr Awasthi. “The standard treatment for mild allergies is anti-histamines which are medicines that mitigate the allergic response of runny nose, itching, sneezing, etc. For moderate reaction, we prescribe cortico steroid nasal sprays to irrigate the nasal passage and these are mild and safe. For severe allergies, we combine both these medications and prescribe longer courses. However, we recommend the patient take preventive steps to control the irritants at home as well as wear masks outside so that they are able to avert allergies during these months.”

How to allergy-proof your home during summer:

• Roll up your carpets and put them away. Use natural fibre mats whereever required.

• At the advent of summer, invest in deep cleaning of air-conditioning ducts to clear the molds and fungal spores.

• Keep doors and windows shut at all times to avoid too much dust collection.

• Vacuum cleaning is important and dust and clean all surfaces, especially upholstery and curtains daily.

• Swabbing the floors with disinfectant and damp cloth will also clear the dust and prevent it flying around.

• Regularly wash and clean pillows, bedsheets with a soft detergent to remove dust mites.

• Use mite proof mattress covers and wash these frequently and vacuum mattress surfaces.

• Whenever you step outside and return home, take a shower to wash away dust and prevent it from settling on surfaces at home

• If you have pets such as cats and dogs, they have animal dander that triggers an inflammatory response. Get their coats shorn to prevent hair shedding.

• Use de-humidifier at home to keep it dry and mold-proof.

• If you suffer from a blocked nose, do not use nasal decongestant indiscriminately as it can trigger rebound rhinitis.

• For minor irritant episodes, home remedies such as washing out the nasal and throat passage with warm saline water can dislodge the irritants and clear the passages.

• Steaming can help declog blocked sinuses and mitigate allergic reaction.

• While stepping out of home during dusty weather conditions, use sterile face masks that can filter out fine dust and prevent allergy.

Ten common allergen sources in homes:
• Air conditioning ducts
• Indoor plants
• Carpets
• Rugs
• Curtains
• Upholstery
• Stuffed toys
• Pets
• Pillows and bed sheets
• Mattresses