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Indoor allergy (perennial allergic rhinitis)
An indoor allergy is when something in your home or work environment triggers an allergic reaction that causes the lining of your nose to become inflamed.
This can cause cold-like symptoms such as:
- a runny nose
- nasal congestion
The symptoms of an indoor allergy can range from mild to severe. While an indoor allergy doesn't pose a serious threat to your health, it can have a considerable impact on your quality of life. It can affect sleep, daily activities and performance at work or school.
An indoor allergy is also known as perennial allergic rhinitis. The symptoms can occur all year round, unlike the seasonal types of allergic rhinitis, such as hay fever, which is caused by an allergic reaction to certain types of pollen.
What causes an indoor allergy?
Anything that causes an allergic reaction is known as an allergen. The most common triggers of indoor allergies are:
- dust mites (found in almost all homes in England)
- fungus spores
- pets, in particular the dead skin that is shed by pets (known as animal dander)
- substances related to particular occupations or workplaces, such as wood dust and chemicals
Read more about the causes of an indoor allergy.
Treating indoor allergies
Medication to help manage the symptoms of an indoor allergy is available over the counter at pharmacies or on prescription. This includes:
In some cases, the symptoms of an indoor allergy can be reduced by using a treatment called immunotherapy. This involves exposing the affected person to small amounts of whatever they are allergic to over time so that their body builds up a tolerance to the allergen.
However, immunotherapy is time-consuming, taking three to five years to complete. It's also not suitable for everyone.
Read more about treating indoor allergies .
Preventing indoor allergies
The best way to prevent indoor allergies is to avoid whatever is causing the allergic reaction. However, this is not always possible and extra steps might be needed, such as:
- replacing carpets with hard wood flooring
- minimising contact with pets
- regularly checking for signs of fungal mould
Who is affected by indoor allergies?
Indoor allergies are very common. It is estimated that 10%-20% of the population has an indoor allergy.
Most indoor allergies first develop during childhood or early adulthood, with 80% of cases developing before a person reaches the age of 20.
Men and women are equally affected by indoor allergies.