Environmental Allergens Connected With Autoimmunity
For most people, to have at least one allergen is quite common. With the modern lifestyle, low immunity levels, and high sensitivity to the environment and certain genetic factors, people are more prone to allergies. An allergy is an immunological response from the body to a substance, to which the immune system turns hypersensitive that is not related to any disease or infections. An allergy most commonly affects the skin and mucus membranes. In our previous blog, we have listed the most common food allergens causing autoimmunity. In this blog, we have highlighted the most common environmental allergens that can make you susceptible to allergiesor that may trigger certain autoimmune-related diseases like asthma,chronic sinusitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,and other chronic health conditions.
Most Common Environmental Allergens:
- Pollen: Pollen travels through the air and is produced by trees, weeds, and grasses. When pollen is inhaled it causes seasonal allergiesor hay fever and is a potential trigger of asthma. Pollen can cause redness, watery eyes, sneezing, itchy throat; pollen can also cause fever and muscle aches when the allergy is severe. Each spring, summer and fall, plants release pollen grains. Pollen grains from trees are very high in spring, grasses are high in the summer, and weeds in the fall.
- Keep the windows closed and stay indoors on dry windy days
- Take a shower after outdoor activity
- Wear a mask while gardening
- Do not dry your laundry outside
2. Dust Mites: Dust mites are a common trigger for asthma and allergies in many people. Dust mites are small creatures that live in bedding, upholstery, mattresses, carpets and soft furnishings. They are largely found in coastal regions with humid conditions and warmer temperatures. The droppings of dust mites, when inhaled cause an allergic rhinitis which creates inflammation of the nasal membranes and the result is sneezing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, blocked/stuffy nose and breathing difficulty.
- Always wear a mask while cleaning up your house
- Wash all the bedding in the hot water at least once a week
- Vacuum your home frequently
- Avoid stuffed toys in the bedroom
- Regularly replace your air filters
- Never use feathery pillows as they have a tendency to attract potential allergens
3. Molds: Molds are a type of fungus that travel in the air and grow on fresh and dead matter. They are largely found on damp surfaces in houses, usually in the kitchen, bathrooms, refrigerator drip trays, food storage shelves, house plants, air conditioners, wood surfaces, and fabrics. There are many varieties of molds but only a few cause mild to severe allergic reactions. A chemical released by these mold can trigger asthma, nasal congestion. If one is exposed to molds for an extended period of time it can render asthma more extreme and in rare cases can be life-threatening.
- Molds thrive in wet and moist areas so make sure your home is well ventilated
- Do not use humidifiers as they can support mold growth
- Thorough maintenance of air conditioners is advised
- Do not carpet your bathrooms and basement areas
4. Pets: Pet allergy is a very common type of allergy that is everywhere. It is even found in homes and places that had never housed pets. People with an over-sensitive immune system can develop allergies to pet’s saliva, urine and pet dander. These pet allergens can get collected on the surface, of the furniture, walls, clothing and other surfaces. Furry pets can also carry pollen and other allergens causing pet allergies.
- Keep pets out of your bedroom as your bedroom can collect lot many allergens
- Make sure to wash your hands after playing with your pet
- Always keep your pet clean
- Vacuum your carpets on a regular basis
5. Smoke: Many people experience difficulty in breathing or wheezing, headache, runny nose and severe allergy-related conditions like sinusitis and bronchitis upon exposure to wood smoke or cigarette smoke. People with allergic rhinitis are more sensitive to smoke. Eating or chewing tobacco can cause contact dermatitis in the mouth and lips. Exposure to a prolonged period to cigarette smoking and chewing tobacco can cause cancer as well.
- Avoid smoking and keep yourself away from second-hand smoke
- Always wear a mask when you are exposed to high levels of smoke
- Ask your loved ones to clean their mouth after smoking
6. SunAllergy: Sun allergy occurs when your immune system reacts to the rays from sunlight. People with a sensitivity to sun exhibit symptoms of itchy rash, blisters or hives within minutes of exposure to sunlight. Sun allergy is mostly seen on parts of the body exposed to the sun such as arms, legs, neck, face, and back of the neck. Prolonged exposure to higher levels of UV rays from the sun can aggravate certain autoimmune-related diseases called dermatomyositis. Too much exposure to the sun can trigger psoriasis and also the risk of developing certain life-threatening skin cancers in the future.
- Always wear protective and light-colored clothing during outdoor activities
- Limit your sun time especially between 10 am to 4 pm when the UV rays are at their highest
- Use sunscreen but use it as suggested on the bottle as overuse of sunscreen can also be harmful
- Say no to tanning
- Wear sunglasses and hats
Key Notes: People who have a compromised immune system can develop allergies and certain chronic autoimmune conditions. Preventing exposure to allergens is the best way to treat allergic conditions. Following safety tips, maintaining healthy diet and lifestyle can help you lead a happy and comfortable life.