Allergies are a big deal. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, nasal allergies affect nearly 50 million people in America. This includes allergies to dust, mold, and pet dander, which can result in sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, a scratchy throat, or a runny nose. Because of this, taking care of your indoor air quality is important. However, some people tend to focus on the wrong problems. Here we debunk 5 myths about allergies so you can focus on what matters most to your health.
Myth #1: Hypoallergenic Pets Eliminate Allergy Symptoms
If you’re allergic to dogs or cats, you may have heard this advice over and over, “Get so-and-so breed. They’re hypoallergenic!” The problem? There are no cat and dog breeds that are completely hypoallergenic.
Your allergy is caused by pet dander, which is composed of microscopic flecks of animal skin. Allergic reactions may also be caused by pet saliva or dust particles from their feces. What tends to drive this myth is the idea that pet hair is what causes your allergy, boosting interest in short-haired or even hairless breeds. The problem with this myth is that the hair itself isn’t the issue. The truth is that long-haired pets can collect more dander due to their fur length, but going short-haired or hairless doesn’t eliminate the problem. Though there are some animal species that produce more allergens than others, there are no specifically “hypoallergenic” pets.
You may also hear that you should stay away from cats and dogs completely, but they aren’t the only culprits. All warm-blooded pets can produce dander. That includes birds, gerbils, hamsters, and guinea pigs. Outdoor pets like goats, chickens, and horses also produce dander, which can get onto your clothes and dragged into the house.
The reality is that there is no way to avoid pet dander if you choose to have pets. That said, there are ways to prevent it from bothering you.
Consider using a quality air filter to keep pet dander from the air and to reduce your allergy symptoms.
Myth #2: Feather Pillows Make You Sneeze
Another allergy myth is that you shouldn’t buy feather pillows and should instead buy “anti-allergy” or hypoallergenic bedding. In reality, it’s not the feathers that cause allergy symptoms. Your allergies are actually caused by dust mites that get into the bedding, and this can happen in feather pillows and anti-allergy pillows alike. When compared side by side, there’s no case for anti-allergy pillows.
In fact, porous materials used in synthetic pillows may spell worse news for you than feather pillows. The looser woven your bedding is, the easier it is for mold, dust mites, and dander to collect, and the harder it is to wash that all out. Feather pillows tend to be designed with tight weaves to ensure the integrity and shape of the bedding, so it actually keeps allergens out. Not only that, but feathers in down pillows and comforters go through a heat washing process when the pillows are manufactured, so any potential allergens present in the feathers would be destroyed before reaching your bedroom.
To avoid allergy-causing bedding, be sure to shop for tightly-woven casings and to wash your bedding weekly in hot water.
Myth #3: Moving Can Cure Your Allergies
A commonly spouted myth is that moving to a new climate, particularly desert climates like in areas of the southwestern United States, will help cure your allergies. The idea behind this is that there are fewer allergens in these areas, so you wouldn’t experience allergic reactions there. Unfortunately, that’s not true.
There is no region that’s completely allergen-free. Though you might be able to escape some allergens like maple in the desert, you’ll still find allergens like cottonwood, sagebrush, and ash in these areas. What’s more, you may develop new allergies from allergens you haven’t been introduced to before. You may experience temporary relief, but anyone living anywhere can experience nasal allergies.
You can’t escape your allergies, so don’t worry about planning a cross-country move. Focus instead on improving your existing environment and indoor air quality to reduce allergy symptoms.
Myth #4: Allergies Only Occur At Certain Times of the Year
For many nasal allergy sufferers, their allergies are seasonal. This can be because they are allergic to certain types of pollens that only become airborne in specific seasons. Among one of the more common is ragweed. This plant is found almost everywhere and usually, blooms in August to November.
That said, seasonal allergies aren’t the only type of nasal allergen to watch out for, and if you experience allergies at other times of the year, you’re not going crazy. You may instead be allergic to something in your home, such as pet dander, mold, or dust mites. These allergens can cause symptoms to flare up at any time of the year.
The key to combating this is to control your environment and minimize allergens year-round. That means filtering your air through an HVAC system during allergy season, washing your sheets and vacuuming regularly to minimize dust mites, reducing in-home humidity to mitigate the risk of mold growth, and using an air purifier to minimize pet dander.
Myth #5: You’re Fine If You Didn’t Have Allergies as a Kid
Most allergies do develop when you’re a kid. For instance, being around allergens like pet dander as a child can reduce your chance of allergies when you’re adult. But the reality is that allergies can develop no matter your age. If you move, you may be introduced to new allergens you never knew affected you. You may also feel you’ve grown out of certain childhood allergies only to have symptoms return in later life.
Because of this myth, it’s easy to ignore your allergy symptoms in adulthood and write them off as a fluke that will pass. Don’t get caught up in this myth. Take precautions, such as using air purifiers in your home, to help reduce allergy symptoms.
The best way to tackle your allergies is to consult your doctor to find out what you’re actually allergic to so you can combat the cause. In the meantime, keeping your home clean and using a quality air filter should help reduce symptoms.