Around 20 percent of the world population suffers from allergic disease (e.g. allergic asthma), and for more than 50 percent of adults and 80 percent of children, their asthma is allergic.

Allergens such as pollen, dust, pet dander and dust mite droppings are common indoors and due to their microscopic nature can easily become airborne, affecting the quality of air that we breathe. You can invest in a good quality air purifier like these ones from Philips but you may be surprised about some of the lesser known materials, foods, or environments that can cause allergic reactions in certain people:





People with dust allergies can have serious problems when opening or rifling through old books. Beware of dust accumulating on your bookshelves, too, which could trigger a sneezing fit. To keep allergens from accumulating on your home collection, wipe down surfaces, books and other collectibles often.



Inexpensive silver-coloured jewellery is often made with nickel, one of the most common causes of an itchy rash known sa allergic contact dermatitis. Switching to high-quality sterling silver or 14-karat gold jewellery usually solves this problem but some people are even allergic to gold so try before you buy. 


Household cleaners

Ingredients in cleaning products can also cause a contact rash. These types of skin reactions aren’t immediate and initially, it may just look a little red or irritated. But over time you become sensitised to it and within days, a more chronic rash may appear. Seek treatment immediately.


Laundry detergent

Some ingredients in laundry detergents and fabric softeners (especially dyes and scents) can cause people to break out with contact allergic reaction. Try changing up your detergent to find a suitable one for you and your family or try looking for unfragranced or naturally-derived detergents.




Most people aren’t allergic to leather, but some do have reactions to the additives used to tan and treat the material. If you find yourself getting itchy or redness where leather has come into contact with your skin, try switching to a different material to get relief. 


Physical contact

Rare reactions can be caused by outside physical stimuli, for example, a scratch of a fingernail or the rub of a belt or a bra strap can cause some people to break out in hives. It’s not the material or the fabric, but the rubbing motion itself. This can easily be treated with antihistamines.

This story first appeared on Singapore’s Women Weekly, 3rd April 2017.