Allergens : What to know?
How are surfaces important in controlling airborne allergens? How do you tell the difference between colds and allergies? We're glad you asked. Find all this and more.
What are Allergens?
An allergen is something that causes an allergic reaction. An allergic person's immune system mistakenly thinks the allergen is harmful, so it reacts and causes allergy symptoms, such as itching and sneezing. Someone who does not have an allergy can be exposed to exactly the same substance – such as pet dander, for example – and not have any symptoms at all.
Allergens are often referred to as ‘triggers’, because they set off allergic reactions. There are different types of allergens, and a variety of allergic conditions that they can cause.
Common Indoor Allergens
Inside our homes, the most common allergens include:
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
- Mould spores
Dust mites, pet dander and mould spores are often present in our homes, so Calare called ‘indoor allergens’. We usually think of pollen as being an ‘outdoor allergen’, but during the warmer months pollen often triggers symptoms when inside because it readily enters our homes in the air, through open windows and doors, and on people’s hair and clothing.
These allergens can float through the air, from where they can be inhaled or enter the eyes, causing symptoms. They can also land on surfaces and cause an allergic reaction when an allergic person has contact with them. And, if the surfaces are disturbed, the allergens on them can disperse into the air again.
How Allergic Reactions Happen
The role of your immune system is to fight off harmful substances – like viruses and bacteria. But sometimes it can misinterpret whether something is harmful or not. This is what happens with an allergy.
If you are allergic to something and you breathe it in, swallow or touch it (depending on the type of allergy you have), you can get an allergic reaction.
- Your body produces a type of antibody (Immunoglobulin E or IgE) to protect you from the allergen it thinks is harmful.
- This leads to the release of chemicals that help fight off the allergen.
- These chemicals – such as histamine – cause allergy symptoms such as sneezing and itching.