Types of allergens and allergic reactions
Allergic reactions such as wheezing, sneezing, asthma, eczema and hives are caused when the body comes into contact with something that it perceives as hostile. The particles that cause these reactions are known as “allergens” and for the most part, they are harmless to the majority but cause serious disorders in individuals with a sensitive immune system.
There are 6 common sources of allergens:
- Pollen from grass & trees
Over 12 million people in the UK suffer from asthma and around 4 million suffer from eczema or dermatitis. 70% of asthma and eczema sufferers are allergic to dustmites so this is a common cause of allergic reaction. Pet allergens affect some 16 million individuals and a further 8 million are allergic to pollen.
Food intolerance is estimated to affect around 1.5% of adults and 6 to 8% of children and the incidence is rising at an alarming rate. In the last 10 years, the cases of food allergies have doubled and the number of severe cases that have needed hospital treatment have increased seven fold. The incidence of chemical sensitivities is little known not least because 90% of the chemicals in our everyday products are innocent because they have not been proven guilty!
Identifying which allergen is the source of your allergy problem
This is not always easy. Allergen particles are small so you cannot see them with the naked eye. Many people are actually allergic to several allergens and they often have similar symptoms.
Pollen is the easiest to identify because it occurs at certain times of the year. Tree pollen is at the highest levels in early spring and autumn. Grass & weed pollen in the UK is prevalent from April to July. The streaming nose, sore eyes and throat are not life threatening but they are very debilitating and have been known to cause exam failures in high achievers and underperformance at work.
In contrast, dustmites, pets and mould are year round problems so your symptoms are not seasonal. In fact, these are often worse in the winter than in the summer.
Information about hayfever symptoms and treatment (PDF, 136kB)
Dustmites feed on skin cells and thrive in warm, moist surroundings.
Mattresses, bedding, sofas, carpets, rugs and other soft furnishings are ideal. The typical mattress contains around 2 million dustmites and a teaspoon of house dust contains 10,000!
Dustmite allergens come from the dead bodies, urine and faeces. Blocked noses, especially in the morning, wheezing & asthma are typical symptoms of dustmite allergy in adults whilst eczema and hives are more common in babies and pets.
Moulds thrive in dark, warm, wet places and shed spores to reproduce. Once released by the “parent”, they float around until they make contact with a wet surface and stick to it. They then release an enzyme that breaks down the outer shell and proceed to grow. Some moulds are beneficial to the environment but others produce toxins as a by-product of digestion that can cause severe sinusitis, lung disease, food poisoning, miscarriage, cancers and allergic reactions in people and animals. Spores enter via the eyes, nose or mouth.
Moulds – the Hidden Hazards in the Home (PDF, 209kB)
Pets of every species – cat, dog, bird, rabbit or rodent – produce allergens. Contrary to popular belief, pet allergens are enzymes that come from the saliva, sweat glands and urine of the pet. These allergens get onto the coat when they lick or relieve themselves, dry and get into the air. The particle is less than one-tenth of the size of a pollen grain so it can float around for years. Because less than 20% stick to any surface, cleaning alone does not get rid of them and vacuuming is a great way of spreading it throughout the house!
The cat allergen, known as Fel d1, is the most frequent cause of allergic reactions but the dog allergen, called Can f1, often produces the severest reaction.
Foods that cause acute & severe reactions such as anaphylaxis are easily traced and can be eliminated from the diet. Nuts, shellfish, dairy products, egg whites and sesame seeds are the most frequent culprits.
Food intolerances that take the form of sickness, diarrhoea or skin reactions normally contain high levels of histamine or stimulate histamine release from your white blood cells. These include alcohol, fizzy drinks, vinegar based sauces and preserves, processed meats, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Needless to say, this type of allergy can be especially difficult to identify and often requires allergy testing at a clinic.
Bio-Life products are formulated to reduce the amount of dustmite, pet, pollen and mould in your home, thereby reducing your exposure and the likelihood that you will suffer an allergic reaction.
Fast-acting AirCleanse™ will attract these airborne allergens, encapsulate and neutralise them. Spraying your mattress, duvet covers, carpets, curtains, sofas and soft furnishings with HomeCleanse™ will get rid of dustmite residues and any other allergens that have settled in your rooms. FabriCleanse™, used as a laundry additive or a carpet cleaning additive removes allergens from your bedding, clothes and carpets. Wiping your pet with PetAlCleanse™ once a week removes the allergens from its coat and the conditioners it contain maintain a show ready pet!