What can i do to help my allergies at home
One of the biggest causes of allergies are dust mites, which are tiny insects found in household dust.
You can limit the number of mites in your home by:
- using a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter, as it can trap more dust mites than ordinary vacuum cleaners
- fitting roller blinds that can be easily wiped clean
- cleaning cushions, soft toys, curtains and upholstered furniture regularly, either by washing (at a high temperature) or vacuuming
- using tested allergy-proof covers on mattresses, duvets and pillows
- choosing wood or hard vinyl floor coverings instead of a carpet
- choosing leather, plastic or vinyl furniture instead of upholstered furniture
- regularly wiping surfaces with a damp, clean cloth – avoid dry dusting, as this can spread dust into the air
Concentrate your efforts of controlling dust mites in the areas of your home where you spend the most time, such as the bedroom and living room.
You can discover more information on allergies in the home on the Allergy UK website.
It’s not pet fur that causes an allergic reaction.
Instead, it’s flakes of their dead skin, saliva and dried urine.
If you cannot permanently remove a pet from the home, you could try:
- using an air filter in rooms where you spend most of your time
- not allowing pets in bedrooms
- regularly grooming pets exterior
- regularly washing every bedding and soft furnishings pets lie on
- keeping pets exterior as much as possible, or limiting them to a specific area of the home, preferably an area without carpet
- washing pets at least once a week
- increasing ventilation with fans or air conditioning, or by opening windows
If you’re visiting a friend or relative with a pet, enquire them not to dust or vacuum on the day you’re visiting, as this will stir up the allergens into the air.
Taking an antihistamine medicine about an hour before entering a pet-inhabited home can also assist reduce your symptoms.
The Allergy UK website has more information about domestic pet allergies.
Treating specific allergic conditions
Use the links under to discover information about how specific allergies and related conditions are treated:
Sheet final reviewed: 22 November
Next review due: 22 November
The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid the substance that you’re allergic to, although this is not always simple or practical.
Below is some practical advice that should assist you avoid the most common allergens.
Medicines for mild allergies are available from pharmacies without a prescription.
But always enquire a pharmacist or GP for advice before starting any new medicine, as they’re not suitable for everyone.
Lotions and creams
Red and itchy skin caused by an allergic reaction can sometimes be treated with over-the-counter creams and lotions, such as:
- calamine lotion to reduce itchiness
- moisturising creams (emollients) to hold the skin moist and protect it from allergens
- steroids to reduce inflammation
Antihistamines are the main medicines for allergies.
They can be used:
- as and when you notice the symptoms of an allergic reaction
- to prevent allergic reactions – for example, you may take them in the morning if you own hay fever and you know the pollen count is high that day
Antihistamines can be taken as tablets, capsules, creams, liquids, eye drops or nasal sprays, depending on which part of your body is affected by your allergy.
Decongestants can be used as a short-term treatment for a blocked nose caused by an allergic reaction.
They can be taken as tablets, capsules, nasal sprays or liquids.
Do not use them for more than a week at a time, as using them for endless periods can make your symptoms worse.
Steroid medicines can assist reduce inflammation caused by an allergic reaction.
They’re available as:
Sprays, drops and feeble steroid creams are available without a prescription.
Stronger creams, inhalers and tablets are available on prescription from a GP.
Immunotherapy may be an option for a little number of people with certain severe and persistent allergies who are unable to control their symptoms using the measures above.
The treatment involves being given occasional little doses of the allergen, either as an injection, or as drops or tablets under the tongue, over the course of several years.
The injection can only be performed in a specialist clinic under the supervision of a doctor, as there’s a little risk of a severe reaction.
The drops or tablets can generally be taken at home.
The purpose of treatment is to help your body get used to the allergen so it does not react to it so severely.
This will not necessarily cure your allergy, but it’ll make it milder and mean you can take less medicine.
Treating severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis)
Some people with severe allergies may experience life-threatening reactions, known as anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock.
If you’re at risk of this, you’ll be given special injectors containing a medicine called adrenaline to use in an emergency.
If you develop symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as difficulty breathing, you should inject yourself in the outer thigh before seeking emergency medical assist.
Find out more about treating anaphylaxis
Avoiding exposure to allergens
The best way to hold your symptoms under control is often to avoid the things you’re allergic to, although this is not always practical.
For example, you may be capable to help manage:
- hay fever by staying indoors and avoiding grassy areas when the pollen count is high
- animal allergies by keeping pets exterior as much as possible and washing them regularly
- mould allergies by keeping your home dry and well-ventilated, and dealing with any damp and condensation
- food allergies by being careful about what you eat
- dust mite allergies by using allergy-proof duvets and pillows, and fitting wooden floors rather than carpets