Ask the Allergist: 10 Asthma and Allergy Questions Answered
More than 60 million people in the United States have asthma and allergies. Here, you’ll find answers to the most common questions via “Ask the Allergist,” a free service from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America—a great resource for people who need help with allergies and asthma.
1. How do I know if I am having an allergic reaction or if I’m coming down with a cold?
Allergies and illness can have similar symptoms, but there are some clues to help you determine if you’re fighting a cold or allergies. For example, an itchy nose is a sign of an allergic reaction. Also, allergies can last weeks or months whereas a cold usually only lasts several days. Additionally, the time of year is a good indicator. Colds can spread during any time of year, but are most common in the winter. Allergies can be year-round or seasonal.
2. My legs itch all night long. Am I allergic to my bed?
You may be allergic to dust mites—tiny creatures found in every home, no matter how clean it is. They thrive in beds, furniture, carpets and humid environments. Try reducing the humidity level in your home with a dehumidifier, and cover your pillows and mattresses with Certified Asthma & Allergy Friendly® bedding.
3. When I enter my house my eyes itch, my nose runs and I start sneezing. Could my house have a mold problem?
A mold allergy could be causing your symptoms, but don’t rule out other common allergens, like dust mites or cockroaches. Keep the humidity in your home below 50% with an allergy-reducing dehumidifier, and talk to a board-certified allergist to confirm your allergy suspicion.
4. My doctor said I am allergic to dogs and cats, but I would still like to have a pet. Is there such thing as a hypoallergenic pet?
While some people are less sensitive to certain breeds, hypoallergenic dogs and cats don’t exist. Pet allergies are a reaction to allergy-causing proteins found in animal dander (tiny particles of shed skin from fur or feathers), as well as saliva and urine. The problematic protein can’t be evaded. If you really want a pet, consider getting a non-dander producing pet like a fish or testing your reaction around certain animals.
5. We are remodeling our home and would like to make it as asthma and allergy friendly as possible. What are some ways we can make our home healthier?
Instead of carpet, opt for solid surface flooring with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Also, consider using low VOC paint and installing Certified Asthma & Allergy Friendly® insulation that is mold and mildew resistant.
6. Strong smelling candles and cleaning products make me wheeze. Are there products I can use in my home that won’t cause these symptoms?
Even pleasant scents can trigger asthma symptoms, like wheezing and coughing. Try scent-free cleaners instead or boil clean orange peels on the stove if you want a natural refreshing scent.
7. I have wall-to-wall carpeting but I have heard it’s not good for people with asthma and allergies. I can’t afford to replace the carpet yet. What are some ways I can make my home as asthma and allergy friendly as possible in the meantime?
Carpeting can harbor dust mites, pet dander, pollen and mold and mildew—all common allergens that can cause symptoms. Until you can replace the carpet, take these steps:
- Have your carpet cleaned by a service that specializes in removing allergens.
- Vacuum weekly with a Certified Asthma & Allergy Friendly® vacuum.
- Remove shoes before entering your home.
- Keep the humidity level in your home below 50%.
8. When the weather is nice in the spring, we like to sleep with the windows open, but when we do that, I wake up with a cough and a stuffy nose. How can opening windows cause that? Pollen counts tend to be higher in spring, so you could have a pollen allergy. You may need to keep the windows closed and turn on a fan or air conditioner with a Certified Asthma & Allergy Friendly® HVAC air filter.
9. I live in a climate that is humid and warm most of the time. Can humidity affect my allergies?
Mold and dust mites love humid environments, both inside and out. Aim to keep the humidity in your home below 50% by running your air conditioner during high humidity periods and using a dehumidifier. Turn on a fan for 15-20 minutes after showering to circulate the air and keep mold from growing, and clean damp areas often before mold has a chance to grow.
10. I have asthma and live in an urban area where air pollution is high. How can I manage asthma and air pollution?
Air pollution is one of the top triggers for asthma. Studies also show that higher ozone, a gas often found in polluted air, is directly related to asthma episodes. Watch airnow.gov for Action Days that indicate the air quality is unhealthy. On these days, stay in a well-ventilated and air-conditioned building and limit outdoor physical activity. You can also use Certified Asthma & Allergy Friendly® portable air cleaners to help remove harmful particles from the air.
Click here to shop all Certified Asthma and Allergy Friendly® products online or at Bed Bath & Beyond stores (look for the seal!).