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Indoor air pollution

Allergy triggers in your home

Having an allergic reaction to things in your home may affect you more if you live with a long-term lung condition. On this page we cover the type of allergies you might get and what you can do to help yourself. 

You may find you develop allergies to things in your home such as dust mites, pets and mould spores. If you think you have an allergy, tell your GP. They will be able to advise you if you need treatment or they may refer you to a specialist allergy clinic to be tested.   

If you’ve developed an allergy to something in your home, you’ll usually get itchy and runny eyes, a runny nose and inflamed, swollen sinuses. Breathing through your nose can be difficult too, and you might have a cough.  If you have asthma, your symptoms might get worse.  

Dust mites

Everyone has dust mites in their home. They are microscopic insects that live off human skin and form part of the dust in our homes. They thrive in damp places, and are found in bedding, soft furnishings and carpets. 

An allergy to dust mites is very common and normally affects people with asthma or allergic rhinitis.  If you are allergic, you might notice symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, or a blocked nose. It’s impossible to get rid of all dust mites, but there are things you can do to keep your house as clean as possible to remove some of them. 

If you have been confirmed to have a dust mite allergy, the following may help to improve your symptoms: 

  • Use synthetic pillows and acrylic duvets 
  • Wash all bedding at least once a week
  • Use an allergy cover on your mattress and bedding
  • Choose wood or laminate flooring instead of carpet if possible 
  • Fit blinds that can be easily wiped down instead of curtains

Our sister charity Asthma UK has more advice on dealing with dust mites for people with asthma. 

Pet allergies

A pet allergy is when a person has a reaction to a pet’s skin cells, saliva or urine. Sometimes people are allergic to dander - the dead flakes of skin that pets shed.   

Dander is very small and can stay in the air for a long time. It collects on fabric furniture and sticks to your clothes. Research has found it takes several months for cat allergens to disappear from a home after a cat has left.  

Any animal with fur can cause pet allergies. It’s most common to develop an allergy to cats, dogs and rodents such as mice, rats and ferrets.   

Woman with dog

Birds can also trigger allergic reactions and asthma symptoms because of their feathers. A powder called feather dander is released when birds clean their feathers, play or wash. 

If you’re breathing in dust caused by birds, you can develop an immune response called hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This causes inflammation of the lung tissue.   

If you have been confirmed to have a pet allergy, the following may help to improve your symptoms:  

  • Limit where your pet can go in the house, or not allow it in the house altogether
  • Wash your pet and any surfaces they touch regularly
  • Use an air purifier to reduce airborne pet allergens - high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are recommended. 
  • Consider replacing carpets with wood flooring or vinyl. 

Another option is to rehome your pet if your reactions are becoming difficult to manage. 

Download our indoor air pollution information (PDF, 504KB)

Next: How can I improve my indoor air quality?

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

Last medically reviewed: August 2021. Due for review: August 2024

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.