Everyone loves the feeling of a soft carpet between their toes, especially in the colder months when getting out of bed is already a chore. But if your eyes are getting itchy or you can’t stop sneezing, that plush flooring might just have something to do with it.
We’ve put together a handy guide to carpet allergies, covering symptoms, allergens, treatments (for both you and your floor!), and the best carpets to help avoid that pesky runny nose!
What are the symptoms of a potential carpet allergy?
Carpet allergies often manifest the same way any other allergy does, particularly hay fever. This means it could go undiscovered during certain times of the year when it might simply be dismissed as a reaction to a high pollen count or even a lengthy cold.
If you’re suffering from any of the following at home, it might be time to take a closer look at your bedroom floor:
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Itchy, runny nose
- Sore or irritated throat
- Persistent, often dry, cough
- Wheezing or trouble breathing
- Itchy skin
Strong reactions might even result in asthma attacks. It’s important to monitor your symptoms, particularly if they are persistent.
Do carpets cause allergies?
While a very small number of people may be allergic to the components of their carpet, it’s actually far more likely that you’re allergic to what is sitting on your carpet.
There are any number of allergens that might be floating around your home and settling on your floors – and you’re absolutely not alone in this! It’s actually hugely common; just because someone isn’t sneezing in their home, doesn’t mean there’s no allergens waiting to be disturbed.
So, what are allergens, and how did they get into your carpets?
Allergens are foreign substances that your body’s immune system tries to fight off, causing what we know as allergic reactions. Allergens themselves are things that are usually thought of as harmless, but can invoke particularly violent reactions in some people.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the most common allergens that might be lurking in your carpets.
Dust mites are microscopic creatures that feast on the dead skin cells that humans naturally lose throughout the day. They particularly enjoy warm, humid environments, making carpets, upholstered furniture, and even bedding the perfect home for them.
It’s actually not the mites themselves that cause the allergic reaction – it’s their droppings! Dust mites can produce up to 200 times their own body weight in droppings per day, and it’s this huge amount of waste that actually causes the sneezing fits and itchy eyes.
It’s estimated that a whopping 10 percent of the world’s population is allergic to dust mites.
Now we know your fur-baby wouldn’t hurt a fly, but Rover might just be what’s making you sneeze!
Most people will immediately point to an animal’s fur as the culprit and they’re almost right. While plenty of dogs and cats shed heavily, it’s actually the dander – the dead skin cells shed along the way. If it helps, think of it as the pet equivalent of dandruff!
Pet allergens are understandably tricky to beat; few people will get rid of a pet for the sake of a mild, manageable allergy, after all.
Particularly prevalent in damp areas and those with high humidity, mould is another common allergen that could be taking up residence in your carpets. Even something as simple as missing a spill or not drying out a carpet properly can cause mould.
Mould often sounds scarier than it is. In the most common forms, it, like the other allergens, won’t affect everyone and may only cause slight reactions in those that it does. That said, reactions can get progressively worse if the mould is left unchecked and untreated, and there are, of course, dangerous types to watch out for. Perhaps the best known of these is black mould, which should be diagnosed and treated by a professional.
Pollen and other outdoor allergens
You may unwittingly be bringing allergens into the house from outside. Pollen is likely the most common example, but even pet-free homes might have dander from outside sources in their carpets. This is part of the reason why allergens are such a frequent issue in so many homes.
As mentioned earlier, it’s rare that the allergy is to the carpet itself, but some people do react to the materials the carpets are made from or the VOCs (or volatile organic compounds) they emit.
Common carpet materials include wool, nylon, polyester, and polypropylene. Carpet padding is also made from a variety of materials, which could contain plenty of potential allergens.
VOCs are common carbon-based chemicals that evaporate into the air at room temperature. Carpets are rated either high or low VOC; a higher VOC load means a higher toxin count and therefore a higher potential for an allergic reaction.
So how do you manage a carpet allergy?
Happily, there’s no need to go tearing up your carpets just yet – though if you’d like to look at your options, we can definitely help you out with this handy guide to bedroom flooring!
Unless you’re actually allergic to the carpets themselves, there’s plenty of options to help manage any runny noses or scratchy throats.
- Regular vacuuming, with a vacuum that has a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. These filters remove and trap allergens and won’t release them back into the home. Vacuum twice a week for best results.
- If you have a pet, make sure that vacuum is also designed to pick up pet hair and dander. In fact, you might want to bookmark our list of 5 ways to get dog hair out of carpets for future reference.
- Manage the humidity in the home – this not only helps prevent mould but also makes it less desirable for those pesky dust mites!
- Have your carpets deep cleaned with a steam cleaner. These are often available to hire from hardware stores or large supermarkets, or you can book a professional to do the job for you.
- Keep the windows closed when the pollen count is high to reduce the amount coming into the home.
- Stock up on antihistamines. True, this is more a treatment for you than for the home, but anything that can help relieve symptoms can only be a good thing!
But what if you want an entirely new carpet?
If you’re absolutely set on carpeting the home, whether for the first time or to replace older flooring, there’s plenty you can do to minimise any allergic reactions.
Look for naturally low-VOC carpets. Materials to look out for include wool, sisal, jute, and cotton.
It’s also important to check the installation products you’re using too, as you may find you react to the adhesives or carpet pads used, rather than the carpets themselves.
You can check out our ultimate carpet buying guide for even more advice!
The good news is that there’s any number of ways to manage a carpet allergy. Whether you invest in a fantastic new vacuum, book in for a steam clean, or start over entirely (with a packet of allergy tablets just in case), remember you can always reach out to a professional for advice!
- Jennifer Horton, 2008, “Why does carpet cause allergies in some people?”, HowStuffWorks
- Corey Whelan, 2019, “Carpet Allergies: What’s Really Causing Your Symptoms?”, Healthline
- Aubrey Bailey, 2021, “Carpet Allergies: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention”, Verywell Health
- 2022, “The Ultimate Guide to Low-VOC Carpet”, FlooringStores
- “What is the Best Carpet for Allergy Sufferers?”, Carpet One