What's Causing My Allergy?

All of us are exposed to different potential allergies at different times of the day. For example, if you go out to work and show allergy symptoms during the working day then something in your work environment may be triggering your allergy. If your symptoms are worse at bedtime, then it could be house dust mites in and around your bedding that are the triggers.

Common allergy causing triggers:
  • House dust mites
  • Pollen
  • Pets
  • Mould spores

Hayfever season

Hayfever seasons vary from year to year but the spring and summer months are when people most commonly suffer from allergies to the different types of pollen, (weed/grass) and even mould spores.

Coping with the hayfever season

It is advisable to try to keep doors and windows shut as this helps prevent the flow of pollen. It is also a good idea to have a shower, wash your hair and change your clothes after being outside as pollen will remain on your clothes and hair.

Try to avoid cutting the grass, as grass pollen can trigger hayfever.

Mould spores

Many allergy sufferers are allergic to mould spores as well as pollen without realising there’s a difference between the two. Although staying indoors can often mean you avoid pollen to a certain extent, it’s not so simple with mould spores. Mould can grow anywhere that has the right conditions indoors, such as bathrooms. You can find moulds outside on compost heaps, in soil, rotting wood and grass cuttings.

Coping with mould spores

If a member of your family suffers from an allergy to mould spores, there are some simple things you can do to help them to control their symptoms and find relief. For example, try to keep damp areas such as bathrooms well-ventilated and clean using anti-mould cleaning products. A bit of hard work for a few minutes can give them a degree of relief for quite some time.

House dust mites

It’s not dust that triggers the problem. In fact, it is a tiny creature called the "house dust mite", also known as Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus. House dust mites are almost always present in house dust, even in the most clean and tidy homes. In a way, they serve a useful purpose in disposing of skin debris in house dust. Its first name 'Dermatophagoides' is simply Latin for 'skin eating'.

Despite its rather fierce appearance under a microscope, the house dust mite does not bite: it eats the skin flakes that make up a large percentage of house dust. The mite is so small that it is impossible to see with the naked eye.

The house dust mite is 80% water and needs a humid environment in which to thrive. The house dust mite or, more precisely, its waste products or droppings, are the most common trigger of airborne allergy.

Coping with house dust mites

One tip that can reduce house dust mites in soft toys is to freeze them overnight. The freezing process will kill the mites. Make sure you wash the items afterwards to remove the remains of any of the mites as they, too, can trigger a reaction.

House dust mites thrive in moist or damp conditions so try and keep your home nice and dry – perhaps by using a dehumidifier. Another approach is to deprive the mites of food and shelter. House dust mites live by eating house dust, so a good clean will take away a lot of their food.


Pets are also a common trigger for people's allergies. Cats, in particular, cause allergies but dogs and rabbits too can trigger the itching and sneezing of airborne allergy.

For most people, it is not the fur itself that causes the allergy problem. Dander, the name given to the mixture of small particles of fur, skin scales (like dandruff) and saliva, is the actual cause. In cats, for example, a particular protein found in cats’ saliva causes an allergic reaction in many sufferers of airborne allergy. Because cats groom themselves so thoroughly, the saliva finds it way onto carpets, furniture and other surfaces.

Coping with pets (dander)

Keeping pets out of the bedroom helps reduce exposure.

Regular bathing of the animal can reduce the allergic problem by removing the saliva and dander that are the actual triggers. For most people, the only way to reduce this problem is, sadly, to find a new home for the animal.

Other irritants

Those that have developed this extra sensitivity (nasal hyper-responsiveness) may find that things such as smoke, perfumes, strong smells or changes in temperature and humidity can trigger symptoms. It can be hard to avoid all of these things, but finding the right information on precisely what it is that affects you will make that easier.

Coping with irritants

Avoid using strong perfumes and ask close friends and family to do the same - especially at times of the year when the sufferers are most likely to be showing symptoms.

Also try to avoid sudden temperature changes; this can increase your sensitivity to allergy triggers, too.