Are you allergic to your everyday habits?
Even if you are pretty clued up on your allergies and know the triggers that set off sneezing, watering eyes, asthma and wheezing, or simply bring you out in blotches, make sure you take a careful look at your daily routine. Everyday habits can be a key source of allergen exposure.
7 everyday habits that could be fuelling your allergies
Skin: the #1 site of allergy manifestation
1. A not-so-clean sweep: When it comes to allergy symptoms, the wrong cleaning methods are more curse than cure. Dry tools such as brooms and feather dusters simply redistribute dust and allergens. Or, worse, transform innocuous sediment on the ground into an “allergen haze”!
Top tips? Favor wet mopping over dry sweeping. When it comes to dusting, opt for a damp microfiber cloth. Your knight in shining anti-allergy armor? The simple vacuum cleaner! Vacuum your floors, curtains, upholstery, toys… anything and everything that collects dust. Final tip: household cleaning products can be allergenic too, so don a mask and gloves and whistle while you work!
2. Drink and be sneezy! Never drown your allergy sorrows in wine, whisky or any alcoholic drink, as your woes will likely worsen as a result! Scientists have shown that alcohol can make any allergic reaction worse, whether it’s asthma, allergic rhinitis or different kinds of skin rash .
Exactly how this works is not known, but there are a few theories floating about. It is thought to be at least partly due to histamine - yes, wine actually contains the itch molecule histamine! - and sulphites in these alcoholic beverages.
Top tips? So, the question on everybody’s lips: how much is too much? One study found that people who consumed more than 2 glasses of wine a day were twice as likely to have allergic symptoms. Make that your rule of thumb and see if it helps.
3. Lazy laundering: Bedding is home to millions of eight-legged dust mites that can seriously worsen allergies. Think asthma, eczema and other skin reactions. There are many things you can do to reduce house dust mite levels in your home, but laundering your bedsheets weekly and correctly is among the most important.
Top tips? Wash them weekly at 60° to kill the mites. If your sheets aren’t compatible with hot washes, pop them in the drier for at least 15 mins at a temperature above 60°. And remember that laundry detergents in themselves can be an allergy trigger so opt for hypoallergenic formulas and rinse your wash twice over.
Did you know? Leaving your bed “unmade” is actually better for house dust mite allergy as it aerates the sheets and reduces levels of the mites.
4. Stressed to kill: Many people identify stress as a personal allergy trigger and this observation is backed up by the science. Researchers have shown that increased stress tallies with increased allergy flare-ups . The reasons why remain somewhat unclear, but there are thought to be complex interactions between the brain and the immune system at the heart of allergy. Some scientists even suggest that proper allergy treatment should include psychological therapies!
Top tips? Stress is part of modern living, so take some simple steps to reduce the negative stress in your life. Try an app to find some headspace, investigate mindfulness or regulate your sleep cycle. And be sure to make exercise a daily non-negotiable... Your allergies might just thank you for it!
5. Bathroom sauna: Long and very hot baths or showers can worsen the symptoms of sensitive to reactive skin by weakening its barrier. Also bear in mind that prolonged warmth and humidity turns your bathroom into a breeding ground for one of the top allergens: mold. This unsightly black fungus releases thousands of allergenic spores that can worsen asthma, eczema and many different types of skin reaction.
Top tips? Opt for lukewarm water and shorter wash times. Not only will this reduce mold growth, it’s also far better suited to sensitive to allergic skin. To rid your tiles and grouting of the mold itself, there are plenty of specialist products available, but they are harsh! So don’t forget your mask and gloves from tip #1. Finally, if your bathroom has a window, leave it open for half an hour a day to aerate the space.
6. Go contactless: In allergy season, contact lenses can trap pollen, dust and other allergens right up against the sensitive membrane covering the eye, the conjunctiva. And that means redness, watering and itch. In other words, you look like you’re on the verge of bursting into tears. Not ideal for your next office meeting or tinder date!
Top tips? When pollen levels are high, favor glasses over contacts, or wear sunglasses over your contacts to block out the allergen-laden breeze. If you do want to wear contacts, try daily disposables to avoid build-up. And remember you can still use anti-allergy eye drops with contact lenses, but do wait at least 10 minutes after using the drops before inserting your contacts.
7. Strip off at the door: If you wear shoes and, more generally, “outdoor clothes” inside your home, you are trampling and spreading allergens all over your carpets, upholstery and furniture. And that’s bad news for allergy sufferers.
Top tips? Outdoor shoes should ideally stay at the door: in the porch, for example. Every day, as soon as you get home, “slip into something a little more comfortable”! In other words, toss your outdoor clothes in the wash, change into something fresh and grab a pair of soft slippers for your tootsies. You’ll quickly notice the difference.
Check out these bad beauty habits too.
Look HERE for basic information about allergies.
* Clin Exp Allergy. 2008 Jan;38(1):145-51. Epub 2007 Oct 10.
Prevalence of self-reported hypersensitivity symptoms following intake of alcoholic drinks.
Linneberg A, Berg ND, Gonzalez-Quintela A, Vidal C, Elberling J.