What are common indoor allergens?

Allergies occur when your body has an exaggerated response to a harmless substance, known as an allergen. Common allergens include pollen, pet dander, dust mites, cockroaches, mold spores, certain foods (including eggs, milk, peanut, soy, wheat, shellfish and tree nut) and latex rubber.

Common allergens include antibiotics, pollen from outside, animal dander, sulfa and foods such as nuts, peanuts, shellfish, strawberries and coconut oils.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Many allergens live inside your home, such as:

  • Dust mites/poop: These microscopic insects make up house dust and feed on dead skin. They live year-round in bedding, carpets, fabric and stuffed animals.
  • Mold: These fungi live in warm, moist, dark environments. It can be found year-round and in musty places like damp basements.
  • Pets: When a pet licks itself and the saliva dries, protein particles called dander become airborne.

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Common indoor allergens include dander from pets, dust mites, mold, pollen from indoor plants, and cockroaches. Additionally, let's not forget that cigarette smoke can act as a respiratory irritant, similar to an allergy. In the cold of winter, we often find ourselves trapped indoors with these potential allergens, constantly exposing ourselves and suffering with symptoms. Eliminating these sources from the home, cleaning bedding and surfaces frequently, and avoiding contact with the above mentioned allergens can help reduce those irritating allergy symptoms.

If you’re typical, you spend 90 percent of your life indoors (really!), where mold, dust mites and pet dander can turn your home into a haunted house. The result: wheezy, sneezy, eye-itching allergies. To eliminate allergies, it’s important to get clues as to what’s causing them. Allergy tests, such as a scratch test or a RAST (radioallergosorbent) blood test, will identify what you are allergic to, but you can probably figure it out if you keep an allergy-symptoms diary. A runny nose when you awaken? It's most likely due to stuff on the mattress or pillow. It's worse after cleaning up after the cat? The cat’s probably the source.

Once you've identified the culprit, it’s time for a whole-house survey to find and banish it. Here are some common offenders:

  • Mold: It thrives in house plants, basements, drywall, bathrooms and kitchens. Bleach solves minor problems, but big problems call for experts to do the job. Indoor humidity shouldn’t go above 50 percent. We believe in dehumidifiers, but clean frequently with bleach so they’re not a source.
  • Dust: Beware of vacuum cleaners and heating/cooling vents that spew particles into the air.
  • Dust mites: Use dust mite-proof bedding to keep the little critters' poop (that’s what does it!) from contaminating pillows and mattresses.
  • Pets: Some folks need to pass on pets, but before you do, first try to keep them out of your bedroom. Bathe frequently (you and your pet), cover pillows and mattresses with dust mite-proof cases, and try HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.