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Am I Allergic to My House?

allergic to my house, cat and dog

April showers bring May flowers and with them comes seasonal allergies.  Those affected by allergies know that when the weather warms up and there is more rainfall, the outdoor environment changes. Plants begin to grow and generate pollen which is bad news for someone with pollen allergies.  Allergy sufferers understand that the outdoor environment may cause symptoms to flare up, but what if you suffer from allergic symptoms inside of your house? This begs the question, am I allergic to my house? This blog post will discuss allergen sources inside of a home.

Pet Allergens

A common source for allergens inside of a home is pet allergens from cats and dogs.  The major cat allergen protein is “Fel d 1” 1. Cat allergens come from skin, saliva, and fur from the animal.  The sebaceous, anal, and salivary glands produce the allergen 2. The common areas where cat allergen can be detected is upholstered furniture, carpeting, and bedding.  Typically fabrics that the cat regularly accesses has cat allergen. Bathing a cat can reduce the amount of allergen that is spread for a short period of time 3. If you have ever washed a cat, you know that it could be a terrible experience for both the cat and the owner!  A better way to reduce the amount of cat allergen is by reducing the amount of dust that is present in your home. Less dust means fewer particles that allergens can adhere to. Also, removing carpeting and using a High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance (HEPA) filter to vacuum different surfaces will remove some cat allergen 4.  

In terms of allergens in homes, dogs are very similar to cats as to how they impact the environment.  “Can f 1” is the dog protein that is used to identify the presence of dog allergen 5. Dog allergens come from sebaceous glands, saliva, fur, and dander 6.   Keeping the dogs or cats out of certain rooms helps reduce the number of allergens found in that particular room, however, allergens can adhere to the clothing and shoes of a dog owner which transfers allergens from one area to another. To reduce the amount of dog allergen from a home, similar practices should be followed. Alternatively, you could always part ways with the furry friend and release him to a country farm.

Pest Allergens

If you have a dog or a cat, it is safe to assume that you are knowingly introducing those allergens into the home.  What about unwanted animal allergens from pests such as mice, rats, and cockroaches? Allergens from rodents are spread from hair, dander, urine, or saliva.  In the National Cooperative Inner-City Asthma study, mouse allergen was found in 95% of the 608 inner-city homes that were involved in the study 7. It was also found that rodent allergens can adhere to many different size particles and be disbursed in the indoor environment 8.  Rat allergens are not as common as mouse allergen but they are more prevalent in inner-city buildings. Cockroach allergen is another concern particularly for kids because it could increase the likelihood of causing asthma 9. Hiring a professional to exterminate the pests is the obvious first step to reduce these allergens.  However, it is also important to professionally clean the indoor environment to physically remove the pest or fecal matter leftover from extermination. Fecal matter from cockroaches also contains allergens.

Dust Mites

Many allergy sufferers are affected by dust mites.  These invertebrates are common inside a typical home.  I will not go into too much detail about these insects because I covered them in a previous blog post.  One key aspect about dust mites is that they thrive in bedding where there’s adequate humidity. They also feed on dead skin cells and microorganism so to prevent dust mites keep bedding clean and dry, in a nutshell.

Am I Allergic to My House? Conclusion

If you suffer from allergy symptoms inside of your home, consider all of the potential sources including beloved pets or unwanted pests.  After removing a pet or a pest, allergens may still be present on furniture or carpeting. Removing materials that allergens can adhere to and cleaning surfaces after the allergen source has been removed is recommended to prevent allergic symptoms.  If you have taken steps to remove allergens from your home or are moving into a new space, consider testing your home for allergens. If you are curious about the type of testing that Indoor Science can perform, I recommend reading a previous blog post. I hope this helps answer the question – am I allergic to my house?

  1. Dilley, M. A., & Phipatanakul, W. (2017). Environmental control measures for the management of atopy. Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology : official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 118(2), 154–160. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2015.12.029
  2. Dilley, M. A., & Phipatanakul, W. (2017). Environmental control measures for the management of atopy. Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology : official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 118(2), 154–160. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2015.12.029
  3. Dilley, M. A., & Phipatanakul, W. (2017). Environmental control measures for the management of atopy. Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology : official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 118(2), 154–160. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2015.12.029
  4. Dilley, M. A., & Phipatanakul, W. (2017). Environmental control measures for the management of atopy. Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology : official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 118(2), 154–160. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2015.12.029
  5. Dilley, M. A., & Phipatanakul, W. (2017). Environmental control measures for the management of atopy. Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology : official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 118(2), 154–160. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2015.12.029
  6. Dilley, M. A., & Phipatanakul, W. (2017). Environmental control measures for the management of atopy. Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology : official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 118(2), 154–160. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2015.12.029
  7. Phipatanakul, W. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep (2002) 2: 412. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11882-002-0075-1
  8. Phipatanakul, W. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep (2002) 2: 412. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11882-002-0075-1
  9. Dilley, M. A., & Phipatanakul, W. (2017). Environmental control measures for the management of atopy. Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology : official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 118(2), 154–160. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2015.12.029

Ian Cull

Ian Cull is a nationally recognized expert in the field of indoor air quality. He is the Chief Science Officer of Indoor Science, a company he started in 2004. He speaks around the world on air quality topics and is a training provider of the Indoor Air Quality Association. Mr. Cull is a Licensed Professional Engineer (PE) and Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). His degree is in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. Mr. Cull has developed 50 air quality related courses for the IAQA University and is the author of the book, “Fundamentals of Mold Remediation”. In his words… “Besides being passionate about indoor air quality, I enjoy cycling, music, the Chicago Bulls, and having fun with my three kids.”