Allergies mean that the body’s immune system responds to a part of the environment, which we call an allergen. The symptoms of allergies depend on a many factors including where the allergen enters the body, and that person’s immune system. Symptoms of allergies to pollens often show up in the head, ears, throat, and chest because they enter the body by breathing. In trying to protect itself from the allergen, the body produces a variety of chemicals, including histamine. Histamine and the other chemicals make cells produce more mucous, which gives us the watery eyes, runny nose, stuffy head that we associate with allergies.
The body’s response to irritants does not involve the immune system, and is restricted to the part of the body being irritated. When we scratch our skin it turns red, and is an example of irritation. Many things can irritate our bodies. Tobacco smoke and perfume irritate the cells that they come in contact with. These irritated cells produce more mucous just because they are irritated, not because the immune system is involved.
It should be stressed that few can comply with all these measures, and in a sense we recommend that you “choose your battles.” We suggest prudence in instituting these measures so that they don’t interfere with the patient’s lifestyle – for example, going to the ballpark with a mask on is no fun at all.
Odors: When cells produce mucous because of allergies, and then are irritated as well, they produce even more mucous. Reducing odors in the household environment of an allergic person can help to decrease allergy symptoms.
Epidermal Allergies: Inhaled dander (epithelial scales or flakes of skin) from animal species other than humans can cause allergies. These most commonly come from dogs, cats, birds, cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and ducks. The hair and saliva of some of these animals may also be allergenic. Because the allergen is mostly on the soluble dander, short hair breeds or non-shedding dogs also cause allergies. The best advice is not to have pets of any of these species, certainly not to have them in the house.
House Dust: Dust is material from the inside the house, consisting of animal dander, indoor molds, plant particles, food particles, insect parts and waste, algae and human dander. The house dust mite is an insect-like creature that feeds off human dander and lives in mattresses, stuffed furniture, rugs, and pillows. It is an important source of indoor allergies. Mite colonies reach a peak in the months of September and October. See also “Dust Mite and Mold Avoidance” article.
Cleaning: Since most people spend a great deal of time in their bedroom, it is the most important room to clean. If you will carefully follow these instructions, you can eliminate much of the dust in your home. House dust comes from mattresses, pillow, box springs, overstuffed furniture, and such stuffed articles as toys and comforters that cannot be washed. Acaracides are substances that, when applied directly over the rug or carpet, eliminate the House Dust Mite for a period of up to 3-4 months. Acrosan (Benzyl benzoate) kills the mite. Allergy control solution (Tannic acid) denatures mite protein. However, there is conflicting evidence as to whether these substances are truly beneficial to allergic patients.
Pollens: Pollen grains come from seed bearing plants. They are the male part (sperm or male gamete) necessary to reproduce those plants. The female part (egg or female gamete) stays in the plant. Plants that are pollinated by the wind are important in allergies. Other plants usually do not cause problems because the pollen only travels by insects, not in the air. Pollens are responsible for allergies outside. The seasons are as follows:
Molds: Molds (fungi) are simple plants that are among the most successful creatures on earth. Two basic structural forms exist: the yeast form, and the hyphal form. Some hyphae specialize by reproducing through spores that disperse in water, air, or by insects or animals. Such spores are strong allergens, which when inhaled by an allergic patient may cause significant symptoms. Although complete eradication of molds is impossible, the use of dehumidifiers and fungicides can produce significant reduction in mold concentration. See also “Dust Mite and Mold Avoidance” article.
Humidifiers help maintain the humidity at 35-50%. Proper care is mandatory to prevent mold contamination of humidifiers. Relative humidity is high is South Florida, therefore we generally recommend dehumidifiers when the air conditioning unit fails to keep humidity below 50%.
Air conditioning: The beneficial effect of air conditioning on allergic symptoms is recognized. For individual or central air conditioning units, proper regular maintenance and cleaning is necessary. Air duct cleaning regularly (as needed) is also important.
Air Filters: Reduce airborne particles. Filters must be changed or washed monthly.
HEPA Filters: (High Efficiency Particulate Air) One of the most efficient air cleaners available, removes up to 99.9% of particles greater than 0.3 microns in diameter. These are somewhat expensive, but can be helpful especially for cat dander. Since dust mite particles settle out of the air quickly, air filters in general are not very helpful if a person only has a problem with dust mites.
Electrostatic: Using the electrostatic precipitation method (charging particles that are then attracted and held to oppositely charged plates), these cleaners offer medium to high cleaning efficiency, removing 99% of particles greater than 5 microns. Two basic types are available.
Single stage electronic air cleaners require no modification to the air conditioning unit, are medium efficient, and washable. Two stage electrostatic precipitators have a higher initial expense, high efficiency for both large and small particles, and are washable.
Negative Ion Generators: his device produces negative ions (ozone) which disperse in the room. Studies as to the health effect are inconclusive. We do not recommend this type of filter.
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