Everett Clinic allergist, Dr. Jennifer Lee, contributed to the Herald's Health & Wellness feature, "Air quality —inside as well as outside— can affect your health."
Some people suffer from persistent, low-grade nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing and irritated eyes without realizing they have an indoor air allergy. Common culprits include pet dander, dust mites and mold.
“Lots of patients have symptoms for years, even decades, and don't realize it's an allergy,” says Dr. Jennifer Lee, allergist at The Everett Clinic. “That's one of the warning signs: You get what you think are colds more frequently than other people.”
“Cat and dog dander is very light and fluffy. It's in the air all the time. The particles don't settle as much and it easily spreads throughout the house. It's hard to avoid,” Lee says.
For sufferers, the best solution is to not adopt pets. If that is not an option, at least keep animals well groomed and frequently bathed.
Dust mites are another widespread, airborne allergen. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, an estimated 20 million Americans are allergic. They are invisible to the eye and it is impossible to completely eliminate them from one's home.
“Dust mites are a heavy particle, so they don't swim around in the air for very long,” Lee says. “If you have an old couch and you jump on it, a plume of dust mites will go into the air, but settle 15 minutes later.”
This makes it easier to minimize the impact. Consistently and thoroughly clean such areas as carpets, furniture and toys. Dust-mite covers for beds can be helpful.
Lastly, the Northwest offers prime conditions for indoor mold, which thrives in warm, damp and humid conditions. Kitchens, bathrooms and basements are particularly susceptible. It also flourishes on paper products, cardboard and ceiling tiles.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, some studies have linked early mold exposure to the development of childhood asthma.
Ready to speak to an allergist about your symptoms? Schedule an appointment today through your Everett Clinic MyChart.