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Managing your allergies

An itchy, blocked or runny nose, sneezing and streaming eyes are all uncomfortable symptoms caused by common airborne allergens found in and around the home.

Managing your allergy is a key way you can take control and stop it affecting your everyday life. First, it’s a good idea to identify what you’re allergic to. Think about if your symptoms happen at work or at home – it could be your environment that’s triggering it. Or, do they happen at the same time each year – if so, it could be hay fever. This will help you narrow things down. Once you know what you’re allergic to, there are some things you can do yourself to feel better.


  • What is an allergen? What is an allergen?

    Allergens are caused by proteins – substances that are found in all living things. When your body comes into contact with one that you’re allergic to, you get an allergic reaction. Your body releases antibodies, which trigger the release of a chemical called histamine. This is what sets off your symptoms.

  • Hay fever Hay fever

    Hay fever is caused by grass, tree and weed pollens. These tend to pollinate throughout the spring and summer months, which is why it’s more common during that time.

    Short of staying inside, you may feel like there’s no getting away from it. But try these tactics to help reduce your symptoms.

    • If you’re sensitive to grass pollen, try not to walk in grassy areas in the early morning and during the evening and night. Pollen counts are at their highest at these times.
    • Ask another person in your family to mow the grass, or if no one’s around to help out, wear a mask.
    • Keep the windows closed in your house and car. You could get the pollen filters changed in your car, if you have them.
    • Take a shower to wash off the pollen after you’ve been outside.
    • Wear wraparound sunglasses to help stop itchy pollen getting into your eyes.
    • Apply some petroleum jelly around the inside of your nostrils to form a protective barrier.
  • House dust mites House dust mites

    House dust mites are tiny creatures that live in curtains, carpets, mattresses, pillows and duvets. They are almost impossible to get rid of completely, but there are things you can do that will help.

    • Choose a wooden, tiled or linoleum floor over carpet if you can.
    • Replace your curtains with blinds that you can wipe clean. Wipe all surfaces weekly with a damp cloth.
    • Use synthetic and acrylic bedding, and fit your mattress and pillows with dust mite covers.
    • Wash your bedding in hot water every week. You could also tumble dry your sheets for 10 minutes on the ‘hot’ setting.
    • If you have them, vacuum your carpets every week. Just be aware that this can stir up allergens in the air for about 20 minutes, so if possible, ask someone else to vacuum and stay out of the room or house until the air settles.
  • Private GP appointments

    With our GP services, we aim to give you an appointment the next day, subject to availability. Find out more today.

  • Moulds Moulds

    Mould in your home can be a problem as it releases thousands of spores into the air. These spores get everywhere and are what can cause an allergic reaction. Anything from mould on your fruit and veg, to the black marks around your windows can bring on your symptoms. Damp rooms like your bathroom as well as your kitchen are particularly prone to mould. You can have symptoms all year round but they may be worse in the autumn months and in mild, wet weather.

    • Pot plants are breeding grounds for growing mould, so you could swap them for fake plants instead.
    • Use extractor fans to circulate the air in your rooms, particularly in your bathroom and kitchen. Open the windows and close internal doors when you’re cooking or having a shower. This will help stop the damp air reaching other parts of your house.
    • Keep on top of cleaning away any mould you spot. Use bleach or anti-mould cleaning products.
    • Clean your fridge regularly and make sure it’s dry, particularly around the seal.
    • Open your windows to let the fresh air in and circulate.
    • Dry any condensation on your windows.
    • Fix any leaky pipes and blocked drains, and make sure your tumble dryer is vented outside.
    • If you use a dehumidifier – make sure you empty and clean the water reservoir regularly as they can be a breeding ground for mould.
  • Pets Pets

    The problem with allergens from animals is that they stay around for a long time and spread very easily. Even if you don’t have a pet, being around someone else’s can bring on symptoms, even once you’ve got home.

    Cats and dogs are the most common causes of pet allergy, but guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits and horses can all cause a reaction too.

    • If you have a pet, try to stop them from going into all the areas of your house. If you can’t keep them outside, try and limit them to the kitchen.
    • If you’ve moved into a new house where the previous owners had a pet, it might be worth replacing the carpets. Cat allergens, for example, can stay around for up to a year after the cat has gone.

    Not all allergies can be dealt with like this – if you’re finding your symptoms too much, see your doctor. Be sure to tell them any details that you think might be triggering the symptoms. You may need some tests to figure out exactly what’s causing your symptoms, and what treatment is best for you.

    For many of us though, allergy symptoms like these are mildly irritating and uncomfortable. Your pharmacist can help you with advice about which medicines might help your symptoms – many of which you can buy over the counter. And, with some simple lifestyle changes and self-help measures, like we’ve described here, you can really help to stop allergies interfering with your life.

  • Preservatives Preservatives

    Methylisothiazolinone (MI) and methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI) are two common preservatives that are used in many cosmetic and household products. They’re closely related, so are often used together. Both of them have anti-bacterial properties, which means they help to extend the shelf-life of the products they’re found in.

    MI and MCI may be found in the following items.

    • Cosmetic products – such as make-up, hair styling and colouring products.
    • Toiletries – shampoos, shower gel, skin care products and deodorants.
    • Household products – including laundry detergents, air fresheners, paints and varnishes.

    MI and MCI from these products can get into the air and cause you to have an allergic reaction. Allergy symptoms include red, itchy or scaly skin. You may also feel a slight burning sensation on your skin.

    If you’re allergic to MI and MCI, try to avoid products that contain them. Always check the label of the products you use, especially when shopping for new ones. If you have these symptoms, and you think they may be caused by a certain product, stop using it. If your symptoms don’t settle over a few days, contact your GP. If you have more serious symptoms, such as a red, swollen rash (hives), or problems breathing, get urgent medical attention.

  • Resources Resources

    Further information


    • Allergic rhinitis. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries., published November 2012
    • What is causing your allergy? Allergy UK., reviewed June 2013
    • Pollen avoidance. Allergy UK., reviewed December 2013
    • Allergen avoidance. Allergy UK., published March 2012
    • Mould allergy advice. Allergy UK., published March 2012
    • Mould allergy – treatment and management. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology., accessed 20 February 2014
    • Methylisothiazolinone – An update from The Irish Skin Foundation. The Irish Skin Foundation. www., published May 2015
    • Contact and occupational dermatitis. PatientPlus., reviewed 29 August 2014
    • Rodrigues-Barata AR, Conde-Salazar L. Methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone: new insights. EMJ Dermato 2014;2:101−5.
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