Hay fever is one of several types of allergies that cause similar allergy symptoms. Itchy eyes (allergic conjunctivitis), nasal congestion, excess mucus, and difficulty breathing are common symptoms in people with hay fever, as well as other allergic conditions. Wheezing, dark eye circles, and allergic cough may be caused by a seasonal allergy to high pollen levels (as is the case with hay fever) or to year round substances (e.g., pet allergies, dust mite allergies, mold allergies).
Pet allergies are very common and result when people inherit or develop a hypersensitivity to animal saliva, dander (such as cat dander), or urine. These substances, known as allergens when they cause an allergic reaction, are sticky and have a tendency to collect on surfaces in the home and elsewhere. When a person who has a pet allergy comes in contact with these allergens, allergy symptoms such as swollen, itchy eyes, nasal congestion, and difficult breathing develop within several hours.
A doctor or allergist can diagnose a pet allergy, often through a scratch test, in which a small amount of the suspected pet allergen is introduced under the skin. Unlike hay fever allergies, pet allergies are simple to treat (or extremely difficult to cope with, depending on your perspective), because removing the pet and cleaning existing dander from the surfaces of the home generally clears allergy symptoms and provides significant allergy relief.
Dust Mites Allergies
Dust mites are are very small arthropods (related to ticks and spiders) that live abundantly in dust. They survive by consuming minute particles of organic matter, including skin cells and other materials that are typically found in homes and other dwellings.
Dust mite's bodies are made of chitin, which is an allergenic substance, and their partially digested food and fecal matter (dust mite dander) are allergenic as well. Allergic response to the creatures is common, so common in fact, that as much as 10% of the population is sensitive to them and experiences some type of sinus allergy. Relief and overall allergy care for people with dust mite allergies usually focuses on environmental interventions in the home.
Since dust mites live in and consume the substances in dust, it makes sense to seek allergy relief by ridding the home of as much dust as possible. However, unlike the sticky allergens found in, for example, cat dander, the dust that carries dust mites is easily stirred into the air, potentially making allergies worse. It may take repeated, rigorous cleaning, preferably with a vacuum cleaner equipped with an allergan air filter to significantly reduce the presence of dust mites.
For severe infestations, chemicals are available that provide allergy relief by killing dust mites or by inactivating dust mite allergens. Tannic acid, sprayed on carpets or upholstered furniture, is effective in destroying dust mite allergens, but does not kill the mites. Benzyl benzoate, a substance that is sold as a food flavoring agent, does kill them.
While products such as dust mite covers, which are designed to be placed on top of bedding, claim to shield people from dust mites, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that dust mite covers are unlikely to have an effect on typical allergy symptoms, and are not a worthwhile investment in allergy relief or allergy care.
Mold is a type of fungus that develops in homes and other dwellings when provided with sufficient moisture, warmth, and a surface area on which to grow. Mold produces spores that become airborne allergens and attach themselves to dust. When the dust is inhaled by a person who is sensitive to mold, allergy symptoms develop.
There are a few dozen commonly found molds that are highly allergenic to people. While mold allergies are seasonal in origin, usually peaking mid to late summer, molds are considered a perennial sinus allergy because unlike seasonal pollens, they can live for a long time and only become dormant in cold weather.
Since mold requires moisture to become active, keeping the home dry can help keep mold that is present dormant. Water leaks, wet floors, and moist refrigerators are typical breeding grounds for mold so these should be cleaned and dried out as soon as possible.
Molds consume organic matter, so items such as paper and clothing should be kept dry. Allergy relief from mold allergies can often be achieved by eliminating the conditions in which mold spores flourish. Mold can be destroyed with regular vacuuming and cleaning, and rugs that harbor mold should be laundered regularly. For severe infestations, advice from a mold expert can be helpful.
In many cases, itchy eyes and dark eye circles at the height of allergy season are an uncomfortable result of weed and tree pollen; however, these symptoms also might be caused by a perennial allergy (e.g., pet allergy, mold allergy, dust might allergy).
Unlike hay fever allergens, which can be monitored by the pollen forecast, but are otherwise beyond our control and nearly impossible to avoid, allergy relief from these perennial allergies often can be achieved through simple, non-medical allergy care, as long as the culprit is identified. A family physician or allergist can help determine the cause for perennial allergies and provide a significant level of allergy relief.