How do aeroallergens affect public health?

Updated: Jul 07, 2019
  • Author: Bhumika Patel, MD; Chief Editor: Michael A Kaliner, MD  more...
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Answer

Despite the early recognition that environmental exposure to allergens causes allergic diseases, indoor allergen avoidance is still an underused treatment. Even when properly prescribed by physicians, the benefits of indoor allergen avoidance are often decreased by inadequate patient adherence. Atopic diseases, which affect up to 30% of the population in some countries, are an increasing problem, particularly in developed countries. Allergic diseases and asthma also cause substantial morbidity and mortality. Asthma affects almost 300 million people worldwide and accounts for 1 in 250 deaths. In the United States, approximately 3 million people are hospitalized for acute asthma each year. [103]  Half of all adults and 80% of children with asthma have an allergic component to their disease, and high levels of allergen exposure are linked to increased asthma symptoms in these individuals. [6]

Both outdoor and indoor aeroallergens sensitize and exacerbate allergic asthma and rhinoconjunctivitis. Major outdoor allergens include those derived from the pollens of trees, grasses, and weeds. Major indoor allergens are derived from dust mites, cockroaches, cat, dog, and other furry-animal debris, and fungi (see Table 1, below). [7] Allergens are located both in homes and in other indoor environments. For example, several studies show that most day care facilities sampled have detectable levels of major indoor allergens; many contain levels sufficient to cause sensitization and exacerbation of allergic diseases. [8, 9]

Table 1. Major Indoor Aeroallergens (Open Table in a new window)

Common Name Scientific Name(s) and Major Allergens Area(s) of High Concentration Source of Allergen
Dust mites Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus (Der p 1), Dermatophagoides farinae (Der f 1), Blomia tropicalis (Blo t 21)

Pillow, box spring, mattress, bedding

Upholstered furniture

Carpeting

Mite body

Mite feces

Furry animals (cat, dog, ferret, rabbit) Felis domesticus (Fel d 1), Canis familiaris (Can f 1), Oryctolagus cuniculus (Ory c 1,2,3), Mustela putorius (Mus p 17, Mus p 66)

Bedding

Upholstered furniture

Carpeting

Skin and hair follicle

Sebaceious glands

Salivary glands

Urine

Rodents (mouse, rat, guinea pig, gerbil, hamster)

Mus musculus (Mus m 1), Rattus norvegicus (Rat n 1), Cavia porcellus (Cav p 1,2), Meriones unguiculatus (Mer un 23 kDa, Mer un 4), Phodopus sungorus (Phos 21 kDa)

Variable

Urine

Hair follicle

Skin

Cockroaches

Blattella germanica (Bla g 1, Bla g 2),

Periplaneta americana

Kitchen

Saliva

Fecal material

Secretions

Dead cockroack bodies

Fungi

Alternaria alternata (Alt a 1),

Cladosporium herbarium (Cla h 1),

Aspergillus fumigatus

Laundry room

Bathroom

Basement

Bedroom

Spores

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