Indoor Allergens and Public Health

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Allergy and immunological disorders are identified as one of the most important health concerns of modern time.

The number of people suffering from these types of ailments is growing day by day. An estimated 22% of the population is suffering from some form of allergic disease (this data is based on a survey conducted in 33 different countries and over 1.39 billion people). This situation is alarming because at present the ratio of allergy specialist and sufferers are ranging from 1:25 million to 1:16,000. This emphasizes the need to create a workforce equipped with technical knowledge and cutting age technology to combat allergy and immunological disorders and/or their clinical management.

A number of biogenic or a-biogenic particles are identified as a potential source of allergens. Mold/fungi, pollen grains, dust mites, other plant and animal borne materials are identified as some common allergens. It is essential to have the proper knowledge of allergens, their prevalence and mode of action for therapeutic or clinical management of allergy and immunological disorders.

Common Source of Indoor Allergies

• Aeroallergens: These are airborne substance of biological or a-biological nature, capable of initiating allergenic symptoms. Pollen grains, fungal spores, plant trichomes/fibers, opaque particles, skin cell fragments, minute plant or animal borne materials besides other particles of organic or inorganic in nature are common example of indoor aeroallergens.     

• Surface allergens: Settled mold spores, pollen grains, nuisance dust, plant trichomes, animal hair/dander, fiberglass fiber, manmade/synthetic fiber, mold affected materials, actively growing mold in and around building surfaces are significant source of indoor allergy.

• Carpet allergens: Man made/synthetic fibers, Nuisance dust, settled spores of biological nature, chemicals/dye, hair/dander, skin cells, mold etc. are common carpets allergens particularly from older carpets.

• Insect and animal allergens: Dust mites, cockroach, mouse, rat, bed bug etc. are identified as common source of indoor environments.

• Pet allergens: Dog, cat and other pet animals are significant source of indoor allergens for susceptible individuals.

• Food allergens: Food stuffs such as milk, egg, cereal, fruits and vegetables, meat and fish can be allergenic in nature to certain individuals.

Types of Allergy in Indoor environments

• Respiratory allergy: Main cause of respiratory allergy in indoor environment is inhalation of allergenic particles such as pollen grains, mold spores, nuisance dust, and other plants and animal borne materials etc. This affects the respiratory system causing symptoms like sneezing, itching, breathing difficulties, watery eyes and nose etc. Hay fever and asthma are listed most common and significant respiratory allergy.  

• Contact allergy: Commonly due to contact and/or exposure of allergenic substances, some individual experience allergy like symptoms such as itching, burning, reddening and blister at affected area. Allergenic eczema is most commonly reported contact allergy of indoor environment.    

• Food allergy: It is one of the diversified type of allergy and hard to detect. Mostly, it happens due to consumption of food stuff which does not suites to the susceptible individuals. Symptoms of the food allergy include but are not limited to diarrhea, nausea, swelling of the throat, hypotension, skin rashes etc. Some common food allergy includes allergy to cow’s milk, egg protein, soy, peanut, fish etc.     

A number of tests starting from the do-it-yourself screen test to detailed environmental diagnostics are available to collect and indentify the environmental allergens and their potential source. The outcome of these tests may be efficiently useful for the management of allergy sufferers on one hand and health & hygiene on the other. Please visit http://www.edlab.org/ for information on Indoor Air Quality.


 

Dr. Rajiv Sahay is the Director of EDLab at Pure Air Control Services in Clearwater, Fla, USA

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