Allergies, Clean Air

Why Airborne Particles Cause Allergies


If you live with allergies, then you know allergens are not just a problem when spending time outdoors between Spring and Fall. Poor air quality inside the home, on the commute to work, or when spending time outside can trigger symptoms that make it difficult to breathe, and can cause pain or general discomfort.

Common airborne allergens that cause problems are found just about everywhere, and that can make it difficult to avoid exposure. For many people, one or more of the following is more than enough to cause a problem.

  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Dust Mites
  • Lint
  • Mold
  • Automotive and Industrial Emissions
  • Hair Spray and Personal Care Items
  • Perfumes
  • Synthetic Cleaners
  • Smoke

It’s not possible to completely avoid allergens, but there are steps anyone can take to reduce or remove the frustration that comes from allergies.

But first let’s answer the question: Why does the body expeirence an allergic reaciton when exposed to one or more of these particles?

The Immune System and The Airborne Particle Connection

The immune system is made up of different, smaller systems that work together to stop potentially harmful substances from entering the body and damaging tissue. The system that causes the allergic reactions is known as the adaptive immune system. The adaptive immune system creates a specific response to a foreign substance, then “learns” so that the next time the body encounters that substance it will produce the same response that was effective the first time.

For example, when you first encounter plant pollen, the body may create a specific protein known as an antibody that will bind to pollen (antigen). The immune system then memorizes the unique structure of the antibody and will release it the next you encounter pollen. Once the pollen is coated by antibodies, the body releases other compounds that help remove or kill the pollen.

Pollen and other allergens cause type-1 hypersensitivity reactions. These are mediated by IgE (immunoglobulin) that trigger mast cells to release chemical mediators, such as histamines, that typically cause symptoms we associate with allergies. Common symptoms of allergies include:

  • Flushing
  • Itching
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal discomfort or nausea
  • Throat tightness
  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Eye Discomfort (water eyes, blurry vision, pain)
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Difficulty thinking
  • Tiredness
  • Cold- or flu-like symptoms
  • And more…

These symptoms are a sign that the immune system is working to protect the body from what it identifies as a parasite or some other potentially harmful challenge.

But pollen isn’t considered a harmful substance, so why does the body react how it does? While we understand the mechanisms that produce antibodies, scientists do not fully understand why some people have no allergies, while others experience such a strong reaction that they require medical attention.

One popular theory is known as “hygiene hypothesis.” This theory examines how hygiene practices in different countries can affect the development of the immune system and tolerances to foreign substances. In effect, children in poorer, less developed countries face greater exposure to parasites and bacteria from a young age. This early exposure helps them develop a stronger immune system. While in wealthier, developed nations where there are higher quality sanitation practices, the immune system is suppressed and this manifests as allergies.

Air Filters: The Best Defense Against Indoor Allergies

Besides keeping a clean home, air filters are one of the best defenses against airborne allergens. If you have a central air system, the filter will be located near the air handler. The air handler, also known as the blower, pulls in air through the air return vent, across the air filter before pushing it back out into the home. When air is drawn through the air filter, allergens become trapped in the filter media. As the air conditioner or furnace runs, the air quality inside the continually improves without you needing to lift a finger!

You can also read out learn about natural sinus cleaning products on our sister-site, These products will help flush your sinuses and may provide relief from sniffling, sneezing, congestion, and other related issues.

With this information, hopefully some of the frustration that comes from allergies is reduced and you can find ways to breathe better and feel more comfortable!

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