Indoor Allergens

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

View 10 Common Allergy Triggers Slideshow Pictures

Allergy Symptoms and Signs

Allergies are exaggerated immune responses to environmental triggers known as allergens. Allergies are very common, and about 50 million people in North America suffer from allergies. One of the most common forms of allergy is allergic rhinitis ("hay fever"), which produces symptoms like:

  • nasal congestion,
  • itchy and watery eyes,
  • sneezing,
  • stuffy or runny nose,
  • scratchy or sore throat,
  • throat clearing,
  • cough from postnasal drip.

Quick Guide10 Common Allergy Causes

10 Common Allergy Causes

Indoor allergen facts

  • House dust is a mixture of components that can cause allergies.
  • Particles and debris from dust mites are common causes of allergies from house dust.
  • Dust mites thrive in warm, humid places.
  • Cockroach allergy can be a major factor in serious asthma and nasal allergy.
  • Symptoms of hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and asthma can be caused by the inhalation of airborne mold spores.
  • The "dander," or skin shedding of an animal, is more potent in causing allergic reactions than the animal's fur or hair.
  • About 6% of the U.S. population is allergic to cats.
  • Indoor plants, especially those that are kept in damp wicker baskets, are a source of molds.

What are allergens?

Allergens are substances that are foreign to the body and can cause an allergic reaction in certain people. Allergens are everywhere in the world around us. Examples of common allergens are pollen, foods, and mold.

Your living environment may contain a variety of animal and plant life, most of which can become a source for allergens, the triggers of allergic reactions. Pollens are the main cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis. However, if your nasal stuffiness, sneezing, watery eyes, and constant postnasal drip bother you year-round, then you most likely have nonseasonal hay fever, sometimes referred to as perennial allergic rhinitis. This condition is typically caused by indoor allergens such as dust mites, cockroach parts, mold, and animal dander.

Understanding the nature and location of common and indoor sources of allergy is fundamental. The key to managing allergies that are caused by indoor allergens involves reducing your level of exposure to them or avoiding them entirely, if possible.

This article describes some of the most common sources of allergens found inside the home environment.

What are symptoms and signs of reactions to indoor allergens?

Indoor allergens can cause symptoms in susceptible people. Seasonal allergic rhinitis can be caused by indoor allergens and manifests as nasal congestion, runny nose, watering of the eyes, sneezing, and postnasal drip. Symptoms of asthma, including wheezing or difficulty breathing, can also occur in susceptible individuals.

Allergic reaction to indoor allergens can also cause conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the lining membranes of the eyes. Symptoms of this condition include red, watery, and itching eyes.

Allergic symptoms involving the skin include eczema, or allergic dermatitis, characterized by a skin rash associated with itching. This usually results from direct contact with the allergen.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/22/2015

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VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Indoor Allergens - Dust Mites at Home

    How do you control dust mites at home? Do you clean frequently?

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  • Indoor Allergens - Cockroaches

    What do you do to control cockroaches in your home?

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  • Indoor Allergens - Pollens and Houseplants

    Which houseplants have been a source of mold or allergens at your house?

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  • Indoor Allergens - Pets

    How do you deal with allergies caused by household pets? Have you ever had to give away a pet?

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