Why you've been extra sneezy during lockdown and how to fix it

  • 17/04/2020
Why New Zealanders have been extra sneezy during the COVID-19 lockdown and how to fix it.
Up to a million dust mites can live in a bed. Photo credit: Getty

As New Zealand endures the COVID-19 alert level 4 lockdown, we're all spending a lot more time indoors and for many of us it's probably been a weirdly sneezy time.

Despite what you may think, being inside can be worse for allergy sufferers than being outdoors.

The dust, allergens, pet dander and pollen that trigger allergy symptoms are generally found both in the air inside our homes and on indoor surfaces like carpets and furniture.

Aotearoa is a particularly challenging country for allergy sufferers as it's said to be the world capital for dust mites, which thrive in temperatures of 18 - 24C with a humidity of 60 percent or higher.

A square metre of carpet can contain up to 100 dust mites while a bed can host up to a million of the little critters.

British technology company Dyson surveyed 1500 New Zealanders and found that 38 percent suffered from hayfever and 22 percent suffered from asthma. Moreover, 33 percent of respondents owned dogs and a whopping 45 percent owned one or more cats.

Pet allergies are common, but pet fur often isn't the only way our furry friends make us sneezy or itchy, as the proteins found in their saliva, urine and dander (dead skin cells) disperse in the form of dust.

House dust mites are the most common allergen in New Zealand and as we spend more time indoors during lockdown, we're producing more of it and are exposed to it longer - so if you've been extra sneezy over the last few weeks, that'll be why.

The good news is it's easy to manage with thorough, regular vacuuming.

Dyson conducted the research to promote its high-end vacuums which are similarly priced to competitors like Kirby, Miele and Tineco. The company says the best way to deal with bacteria, pollen and dust mite allergens is to remove them from your home completely.

"This is why Dyson has focused its efforts on developing vacuums that pick up dust from surfaces, have cyclones that are incredibly efficient and advanced filters and seals that prevent dirty air from being expelled back into the home," the company said in a statement.

"Dyson ensures the air being expelled from the vacuum is clean - in fact, Dyson machines can capture 99.97 percent particles as small as 0.3 microns. For context, the diameter of a human hair is around 50 microns."