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Tips on How to Avoid Common Allergens

It is not easy to avoid most allergens, but avoidance of triggers is clearly the best treatment for allergic disease

Pollen


Tips for the Spring Season

  • If possible, stay indoors, especially on windy days and between 5 AM and 10 AM when pollen counts are highest.
  • Use an air conditioner and a dehumidifier to keep air clean, cool and dry.
  • Remove shoes to avoid bringing pollen indoors. Change your clothes as soon as possible after being outside for long periods.
  • Shower after spending time outdoors. This will remove built up pollen from skin and hair.
  • Keep windows closed in the home and car.
  • Avoid mowing the lawn or being around freshly cut grass. Mowing stirs up pollens.
  • Do not hang clothes or sheets outside to dry. They will collect pollen.
  • Take your vacation during the height of the pollen season to a more pollen-free area such as the beach or sea.
  • Take your medications prescribed by your allergist regularly and in the recommended dosage.

Dust Mites

The success of allergen avoidance depends on many factors including accurate identification of an allergy, practical advice on how to minimize exposure in the home and workplace, and continued support from your healthcare provider.

First, make sure you are allergic by going to the allergist for specific skin testing to be sure dust mites are a problem for you.

Reduce Your Exposer with Environmental Controls

The next step is to reduce your exposure to mites with environmental controls. The bedroom is the most important place to start, since we spend six to eight hours a night in this environment.

Special covers for pillows, mattress and boxsprings should be used. Regular plastic covers or cloth encasings are not capable of keeping these microscopic mites away from you. These special covers are specially designed with tightly woven fibers to keep dust mites inside the encasing and prevent you from breathing them in while sleeping.

Start in the Bedroom

  • Use allergen control covers on all pillows and mattresses in the house.
  • Wash all blankets, sheets, pillowcases and mattress pads in hot water (130°F) weekly or at least every two weeks. Lower temperatures do not kill dust mites.
  • Tumble quilts and thick blankets weekly in a hot dryer for at least 20 minutes.
  • Use wipeable furniture (wood, plastic, vinyl) instead of upholstered furniture.
  • If possible, remove the bedroom carpet. Washable throw rugs may be used if washed every two weeks.
  • Avoid shampooing carpets as the moisture can actually increase dust mite growth.
  • Remove stuffed toys, pennants, throw pillows and heavy curtains. All bedroom items should be washable or wipeable.
  • Dust mites hate dry, cold air. Avoid a humidifier or keep relative humidity below 45% to 50%.

Throughout the House

  • Remove carpeting, if possible.
  • Vacuum twice a week using a good, quality vacuum, such as a HEPA vacuum that traps allergy particles.
  • Cover hot air vents or use a filter with a central heating system.
  • Avoid lying on upholstered furniture or carpets.
  • Wear a well fitting mask when housecleaning.
  • If allergic keep dogs, cats, fish tanks and other pets out of the bedroom.
  • PLEASE use common sense. Some people become obsessed about cleaning the house in an attempt to avoid dust mites. We are attempting to reduce exposure. We will never avoid it completely.

Animal Dander

The dander from animals, especially cats and dogs, is a source of allergen year round. If you have severe symptoms, the best recommendation is to remove the animal from the home. If this option is unacceptable, the animal must be completely excluded from the bedrooms at all times. Keep the door to the bedroom closed during the day, so the animal does not climb on the bed and leave dander on your sleeping environment. Keeping the pet outside will reduce your exposure and reduce your symptoms.

Mold

Mold can grow in damp areas of the home such as the basement, bathroom or kitchen.

To decrease mold growth:

  • Ventilate areas well
  • Clean damp areas using a weak chlorine bleach solution
  • Do not carpet bathrooms or other damp rooms
  • Use mold proof paint instead of wallpaper
  • Remove houseplants

Contact Information

Allergy and Inflammation - Research
Department of Medicine
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Center for Life Science, 9th floor
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617-723-4110
617-735-4115