Carpet Allergies: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Allergies occur when your body mistakenly thinks a harmless substance—called an allergen—needs to be “fought off” to keep you healthy.

Carpet allergies are often caused by allergens that collect in your carpet. Less commonly, people are allergic to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are chemicals present in new carpeting materials, among other things.

Learn more about the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of carpet allergies in this article.

Vacuuming carpet

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Carpet Allergies: What Causes Them?

Carpet allergies are usually caused by environmental allergens that get tracked into the house. However, VOCs are another potential irritant that can cause allergy-like symptoms.

VOCs are chemicals frequently found in carpets (and other household products) that evaporate into the air.

Why Carpet?

Carpet can be a magnet for allergens and irritants, particularly if it’s in a high-traffic area of your home.

Carpet fibers collect dirt and other particles from the environment from the bottom of your shoes or feet. These particles can then be stirred up and breathed in when the carpet is walked on. Particles are more likely to collect in your carpet if it has long fibers.

Common environmental allergens and irritants include:

  • Pollen
  • Mold spores
  • Pet dander
  • Dust mites
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Insect debris

Symptoms of Carpet Allergies

Symptoms of carpet allergies can vary, depending on the cause. If you’re allergic to allergens in your carpet, symptoms can include:

  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Swollen eyes and/or lips
  • Rash
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing

Symptoms of VOC Exposure

Exposure to VOCs can cause:

  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bleeding from your nose
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

How to Get Rid of Carpet Allergies

The best way to get rid of carpet allergies is to remove your carpets. However, before you go to extremes, you can try some other steps to reduce the amount of allergens and irritants in your carpet.

Keep Your Environment Clean

Proper cleaning can reduce the number of particles in your carpet:

  • Vacuum up the allergens: Vacuum your carpet at least once a week, but preferably twice. Use a double-thickness bag or HEPA filter—allergens can escape back into the air from standard vacuum cleaner bags.
  • Wear a mask: Cleaning your carpet can stir up allergens, making you more likely to breathe them in while you’re vacuuming. Consider wearing a mask over your nose and mouth while cleaning.
  • Steam clean: Use a steam cleaner on your carpet. This device cleans more thoroughly than a regular vacuum and kills dust mites in the process.
  • Switch to area rugs: If you have the option, consider using area rugs that can be washed rather than wall-to-wall carpeting.
  • Go outdoors: Keep smoking to the outdoors to prevent buildup of particles in your carpet.
  • Avoid fans: Window or room fans can increase the risk of allergens entering your home and settling into your carpet.
  • Remove your shoes: A simple way to decrease allergen tracking into your carpet is to remove your shoes at the door.
  • Clean up spills: Keep the carpet dry, and clean up spills quickly to reduce risk of mold growth underneath the rug.
  • Corral your pet: Reduce pet dander in your carpet by keeping your pet in areas of the house that are carpetless.

Reduce VOCs

Here are some ways to reduce VOCs that might be present in your carpet:

  • Read the label: The Carpet and Rug Institute has set standards for the level of gas emissions (VOCs) in carpet. Some carpets may have less VOCs than others.
  • Time your installation: If you’re building a home or renovating a room, consider waiting to install your carpet until other room finishes are complete. VOCs from paint and other building products can accumulate in your carpet and later become airborne.
  • Air it out: Once you’ve installed your carpet, allow the room to air out for at least 72 hours. Open the windows or run an air filter in the room.

Treating Carpet Allergies

Unfortunately, you can’t always avoid exposure to allergens and irritants, particularly if the offending carpet isn’t in your home. The good news is, there are medications that can help reduce your symptoms:

  • Antihistamines: These medications block the effect of chemicals (“histamines”) released by your allergy cells. This helps reduce your allergy symptoms.
  • Decongestants: This type of medication reduces swelling in your nasal passageways to improve breathing. Decongestants should not be used more than three days in a row. Overuse can lead to increased swelling in your nose and worsen your symptoms.
  • Corticosteroids: Steroid medications might be needed to treat your allergy symptoms if over-the-counter ones aren’t working.
  • Allergy shots: If your allergen has been identified by a specialist, allergy shots might be an option for you. Small amounts of the allergen are introduced to your body to help decrease your sensitivity over time.

A Word From Verywell

If you’ve got allergies, talk to your doctor about allergy testing before you make drastic changes to your environment. Once you’ve identified your trigger, you can take steps toward minimizing your exposure and finding the most effective treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can carpet make allergies worse?

    If you have pollen, mold, animal dander, or dust mite allergies, having a carpet can increase your exposure to allergens and worsen your symptoms.

  • What is the best type of carpet for people with allergies?

    If you have allergies, look for carpet that is labeled “hypoallergenic.” The materials in these carpets are resistant to allergens.

  • How often should carpet be replaced?

    The lifespan of your carpet depends on many factors, including traffic levels and the quality of the carpet fibers. Carpet that has tears, holes, stains, or a foul smell should be replaced.

  • How can I tell if there is mold under my carpet?

    Moldy carpet can cause stains and foul odors. It might also feel wet to the touch.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Environmental Protection Agency. What are volatile organic compounds (VOCs)?

  2. National Health Service. Symptoms: allergies.

  3. Environmental Protection Agency. Volatile organic compounds’ impact on indoor air quality.

  4. C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Controlling dust, dust mites, and other allergens in your home.

  5. Environmental Protection Agency. Controlling pollutants and sources: indoor air quality design tools for schools.

  6. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Allergy treatment.

By Aubrey Bailey, PT, DPT, CHT
Aubrey Bailey is a physical therapist and professor of anatomy and physiology with over a decade of experience providing in-person and online education for medical personnel and the general public, specializing in the areas of orthopedic injury, neurologic diseases, developmental disorders, and healthy living.