Researchers from the National Institutes of Health report that over 90 percent of homes had three or more detectable allergens, and 73 percent of homes had at least one allergen at elevated levels. The findings were published November 30 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Darryl Zeldin, M.D., senior author and scientific director at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), which is part of NIH said, “Elevated allergen levels can exacerbate symptoms in people who suffer from asthma and allergies, so it is crucial to understand the factors that contribute.”
Using data from the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the researchers studied levels of eight common allergens – cat, dog, cockroach, mouse, rat, mold, and two types of dust mite allergens – in the bedrooms of nearly 7,000 U.S. homes.
They found that the presence of pets and pests had a major influence on high levels of indoor allergens. Housing characteristics also mattered – elevated exposure to multiple allergens was more likely in mobile homes, older homes, rental homes, and homes in rural areas.
For individual allergens, exposure levels varied greatly with age, sex, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Differences were also found between geographic locations and climatic conditions. For example, elevated dust mite allergen levels were more common in the South and Northeast, and in regions with a humid climate. Levels of cat and dust mite allergens were also found to be higher in rural areas than in urban settings.
The researchers emphasized that the relationships between allergen exposures, allergic sensitization, and disease are complex. Studies are still investigating how allergen exposures interact with other environmental and genetic factors that contribute to asthma and allergies.
The Mayo Clinic offers suggestions to help eliminate allergens in the home.