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Alternative Names Return to topIndoor allergies; Pet allergies
Definition Return to top
Allergy-related symptoms can occur after you are around mold, certain animals or animal hair, dust, and other substances. These substances are usually found indoors and do not cause symptoms for most people.
Causes Return to top
Allergies occurs when the immune system over-reacts to substances (allergens) that are usually harmless.
When a person with allergies breathes in an allergen, the body releases histamine and other chemicals as part of the immune response. This causes itching and swelling, mucus production, and in serious cases, hives and rashes, as well as other symptoms. Symptoms vary in severity from person to person.
Most environmental allergens contact the skin or eyes, or are inhaled. Therefore, most symptoms affect the skin, eyes, or the breathing passages.
You may develop an allergic reaction to particles that may be in or outdoors. Common allergy triggers include:
A few people develop allergy-like symptoms to other irritants in the environment, including smoke, fumes from industries or cleaning products, tobacco, powder, and laundry detergents.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
The doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you questions about your symptoms. The history of symptoms is important in diagnosing allergies, including whether the symptoms vary according to time of day or the season and possible exposures such as having a pet in the household.
Allergy testing is done to see identify the specific allergens that are causing your symptoms. Skin testing is the most common and useful method. This may include scratch, patch, or other tests.
If your doctor determines that you cannot undergo skin testing, a RAST blood test (to look for IgE antibodies to a specific allergen) may be helpful.
Having allergies may also alter the results of the following tests:
Treatment Return to top
The best treatment is to avoid being around molds, dander, dust.
See the following articles for specific treatment options:
Allergy shots (immunotherapy) are occasionally recommended if the substance you are allergic to cannot be avoided and if symptoms are hard to control.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Most symptoms of allergies to mold, dander, and dust can be readily treated, and regular treatment can minimize the symptoms.
In some cases (particularly in children), people may outgrow an allergy as the immune system becomes less sensitive to the allergen. However, as a general rule, once a substance causes allergies for an individual, it can continue to affect the person long term.
The most severe cases of allergic rhinitis from these allergens may require immunotherapy (allergy shots) or removal of tissue in the nose or sinuses.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if severe symptoms of allergy occur, if previously successful treatment has become ineffective, or if symptoms do not respond to treatment.
Prevention Return to top
Breastfeeding can help prevent and decrease allergies. There is also evidence that exposures to certain allergens in the first year of life may prevent some allergies.
Mold spores are everywhere. You can reduce your exposure to mold by following these steps:
Clean frequently to reduce dust. Vacuum frequently, preferably using a small-pore filter to capture dust mites. Damp-mop and dust often.
Eliminate as many "dust catchers" as possible, including rugs, bed ruffles or canopies, and curtains.
You can buy special covers for mattresses, box springs, and pillows to reduce dust mites. Wash rugs, bedding, and furniture coverings in hot water (at least 130 degrees Farenheit) weekly if possible.
Central heating and air-conditioning systems may be helpful, particularly if they include special filters to capture dust. Change furnace filters frequently. Use of high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are most helpful in preventing mold exposures.
People who are allergic to animals may need to avoid keeping pets. Frequent bathing and grooming of the pet (preferably by someone who is not allergic to the animal) may help. Allergy to animals may also include wool, which may contain tiny amounts of dander (skin).Update Date: 1/7/2009 Updated by: Stuart I. Henochowicz, MD, FACP, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Rheumatology, Georgetown University Medical School. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.