People are being encouraged to be aware of their winter allergy triggers as part of World Allergy Week.
One in eight adults and one in seven children in New Zealand have asthma, and up to 80 per cent of this asthma is associated with an allergy, says Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ chief executive Letitia Harding.
"It is important for people with allergy-triggered asthma to understand their triggers and minimize them as much as possible."
One of the most common allergens is the faecal waste produced by dust mites.
"Dust mites are everywhere, and we all have them in our homes in soft furniture, carpets, mattresses, and pillows," says Letitia.
"They are microscopic, and their faeces get into the air easily and can provoke a strong allergic response when inhaled, which can trigger asthma in some people.
“When the weather’s cold, we tend to spend more time cosying up at home with windows and doors closed, meaning we're coming into more contact than usual with this trigger."
Signs of an allergy to dust mites include sneezing, runny nose and itchy or watery eyes when vacuuming or dusting or upon entering a dusty room. But for a person with asthma it may also cause wheezing, chest tightness or difficulty breathing.
ARFNZ research and education manager Joanna Turner says, "If you suspect dust mite waste is exacerbating your asthma, you can ask your doctor for a skin prick test which can help indicate the likelihood of dust mites as a trigger”.
"It’s important to try to identify the allergen affecting your asthma, so you can avoid or minimise exposure to it.
“If you have a dust mite allergy, using a HEPA filter, and covering your mattress, duvet inner and pillows with mite-resistant cases can help," says Joanna.
To improve asthma and allergies, ARFNZ suggests reducing triggers in living environments. This includes:
- Ensuring your home is dry, well ventilated and warm
- Keeping mould and dust to a minimum
- Keeping pets outside of bedrooms.
For more information on allergies and asthma visit: asthmafoundation.org.nz