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Indoor Allergy Triggers

Discover what’s behind your symptoms.
By
WebMD Feature

You come home after a day away, step into the house, and the symptoms hit: Watery eyes, scratchy throat, congestion. Could it be indoor allergies?

Allergies are very common. An estimated 50 million Americans are allergic to everything from dust and dander, to mold and mites.

But what about you? How can you be sure you have indoor allergies -- and pinpoint what’s causing them? To help you understand what’s behind your allergy symptoms, WebMD got tips from experts on how to recognize common allergy triggers and get the right diagnosis.

Indoor Allergies: First, Know the Symptoms

Half the battle of treating indoor allergies is recognizing you have them, says allergist Asriani Chiu, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and medicine (allergy/immunology), in Wisconsin. Allergy symptoms can be hard to pinpoint because they often mimic cold symptoms. Yet there are differences.

Typical indoor allergy symptoms include:

  • A drippy nose with watery, clear secretions
  • Itchy eyes
  • Symptoms that linger for weeks

Cold symptoms differ in a few crucial ways, including:

  • Nasal secretions are discolored (yellow or green)
  • You have chills and body aches
  • Symptoms linger a week or 10 days

It also helps to understand the most common indoor allergy triggers.

Indoor Allergies: 5 Common Allergy Triggers

Every home harbors potential allergens, from the rare to the ubiquitous, but these five are the most common triggers for indoor allergies:

  • Dust: Dust can be made up of dozens of things, including tiny bits of plants, skin, soil, insects, food, fibers, and animal matter. Any one -- or more -- of these minute substances could trigger indoor allergies. 
  • Dust Mites: As you may have guessed, dust mites thrive on dust. And, dust mite droppings are the most common trigger of allergy and asthma symptoms, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Although you’ll find dust mites all over the house, they concentrate in areas rich with human dander (dead skin flakes) and high humidity: bedrooms, carpets, bathroom rugs. 
  • Mold: Mold and mildew thrive in high humidity, such as your steamy bathroom or chilly, damp basement. Once they take hold, mold and mildew shed tiny spores -- and these spores trigger indoor allergy symptoms. 
  • Pet Dander: If you have pet allergies, you’re not actually allergic to cat or dog hair. Instead, the allergic reaction is caused by a tiny protein in an animal’s saliva. Even homes without pets may contain dander. That’s because pet dander is sticky and light. It clings to clothes, shoes, and hair. Thus, pet dander can be found in boardrooms and classrooms, as well as at home. 
  • Cockroaches: Like dust, roaches can be found almost everywhere. As with pets, it’s not the roach itself that triggers indoor allergies. Instead, the potential allergen is a protein found in the cockroach’s droppings.

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