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Allergen Avoidance

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Allergen Avoidance

As an allergy patient, controlling the environment around you is just as important as treating your symptoms with medications. The number one way to treat your allergies is avoidance or minimizing contact with allergens that you are sensitive to. Medications and immunotherapy are also used to control symptoms. The following are avoidance tips to treat your common allergy symptoms.

Pollen Avoidance


Pollens are the fertilizing agents of trees, weeds and grasses. Most trees in the United States that produce pollen associated with allergies or "hay fever", pollinate at various periods throughout the year. Most pollen is visible to the eye and is capable of being carried through the air for great distances.

Weeds and Grasses:

If you are allergic to weed and grass pollen, it might be useful to obtain charts showing what the weed or grass looks like. A good website to visit to obtain pictures is www.unicapinvitrosight.com. If those plants grow around your house, you may find some relief of your allergy symptoms by having the plants removed. The most problematic pollen is ragweed, which spreads an abundance of pollen in the air in late summer and early fall. Also, there are some foods that cross-react with ragweed, when it is in season. Cantaloupe, watermelon, banana, and milk are a few of the foods that when ingested the body cannot tell the difference between it and ragweed. Therefore by eating these foods in the middle of ragweed season your symptoms can actually worsen.

Pollen Tips:

  • Avoid, if you can, going outside on a day when the pollen count is high such as a dry, windy day. Pollen is at its highest level in the late evening and early morning.
  • Check the weather forecasts for local pollen counts.
  • Keep windows closed and use air conditioners when possible.
  • Air conditioning will decrease indoor pollen counts because it recirculates indoor air instead of outside air that carries pollen.
  • Have someone kill weeds by cutting them or using weed killers.
  • Consider a mask or glasses when pollen gets bad.
  • Use over the counter nasal saline or sinus rinse in your nose daily to wash away pollen.
  • Change your car's cabin air filter at least yearly. Older filters can blast pollen into your face.
  • Save outdoor exercise for the evening. Many trees shed pollen at first light. Ragweed pollen count tends to spike at midday.
  • Avoid plants related to ragweed including zinnias, chrysanthemums, marigolds, dahlias, and sunflowers.
  • Use a HEPA filter in the home and vacuum cleaners. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Arrester. This type of air filter is designed to absorb most particles floating in the air and keep vacuumed dust from escaping from the vacuum cleaner back into the air.
  • Start these steps a week or so before you expect you allergies to arrive.

Research shows that immunotherapy - a.k.a. allergy shots or drops - can help with your health and wallet. An 11 year study of more than 13,000 Florida children found that the shots slashed health costs by a third and prescription costs by 16%. Kids getting the shots or drops began to feel better as early as 3 months into treatment. This means fewer office visits and less need for medicine. The treatment actually changes the body's allergic response instead of just masking symptoms. lmmunotherapy is worth considering for anyone who doesn't get enough relief from medications or who just hates paying for them.

Animal Dander Avoidance

Animal dander is a mix of skin flakes and fur or hair shed from pets. Animal dander, and not the hair specifically, cause allergy symptoms in people allergic to cats and/or dogs. However, your doctor recognizes that pets are often considered "family members" and parting with the pet can be difficult. In these situations, the following measures may help to reduce exposure to animal dander:

  • Never let the pet into your bedroom.
  • Keep the pet outside as much as possible and prevent the allergy suffer from bathing the pet.
  • Professional cleaning of carpets and air ducts is usually required to remove animal dander even after the pet has been removed from the home.
  • If you are visiting someone else's home where there is a pet, consider taking a non-sedating antihistamine (as recommended by your doctor) before visiting.
  • Live animals are not the only source of allergies. Clothing made of cashmere, animal hair, or mohair can trigger an allergic reaction, as well as animal hair stuffed chairs, sofas, toys, and down stuffed pillows. Use Dacron filled pillows and comforters instead of foam rubber (foam rubber encourages the growth of mold)

Mold Avoidance

Mold can exist outside and inside the home. Molds give off spores that get into the air and when inhaled by someone allergic to them, can produce allergic symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose, coughing or itchy, watery eyes.

Mold spores can be inhaled outdoors while cutting grass, raking leaves, or hiking in the woods. Outdoor mold counts usually peak during the summer months although rainy or damp weather often causes mold to thrive. Dry windy days can carry mold spores far distances.

Indoor mold (also known as "mildew") can release mold spores throughout the year. Inside the home, molds can be found in the bathroom, basements, in dried flowers and potted plants, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, leather goods and in stored goods. Consider the following mold tips:

  • Reducing excess dampness in the house is the prime goal in controlling mold.
  • Reduce the amount of house dust in your home. House dust carries mold.
  • Wash window ledges and shower stalls with chlorine bleach or Lysol at least once every 3 months.
  • Use mold resistant paints to cover walls in unfinished basements
  • Keep your houseplants to a minimum or use solutions (available at nurseries) that you can mix with your potting soil to inhibit the growth of mold.
  • Clean furnace filters, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and vaporizers frequently, to prevent mold build up.
  • Wallpaper is a prime location for mold, especially in the bathroom. If newly papering walls, add borax or boric acid to the paste to slow down the growth of mold.
  • Dry damp clothes promptly.
  • Vent dryers to the outside to prevent build up of moisture
  • Spread out towels and the shower curtain as often as possible so that they will dry promptly.
  • Discard damp piles of papers, carpeting, and old furniture.
  • Replace pillows and bedding
  • Check attics and crawl spaces for mold and moisture.

House Dust Mite Avoidance

House dust is a mixture of many kinds of particles that travel in the air. House dust typically consists of dust mites that are invisible creatures that feed on dead skin flakes. Dust mites are the single most important contributors in "triggering" allergic symptoms. Allergic symptoms include itching, red eyes or an itchy, runny, stuffy nose and coughing. In order to minimize your exposure to house dust mites, you should consider the following:

  • Keep your bedroom clean. You can spend over a third of your life in the bedroom so focus on efforts to improve your environment. Try using wooden or linoleum flooring and keep your bed away from air vents. Everything in the room should be washable including bedding, rugs, and foam mattresses. Use pillows made of Dacron or foam rather than using pillows made from feathers. Vacuum mattresses and enclose them in a protective dust mite cover. Use synthetic blankets.
  • Avoid being present during house cleaning if possible or wear an appropriate mask if it is necessary for you to clean the house. Clean rooms with a damp dust cloth twice a week.
  • Eliminate dust catchers and avoid clutter.
  • Replace old carpets and rugs if possible. If you intend to keep your carpet or if it is new, you can reduce allergens in your carpets by applying solution that helps keep down the formation of dust in the carpeting.
  • Use only washable window curtains made of cotton or polyester. Venetian blonds are not recommended because their tendency to accumulate dust.
  • Furnaces should be serviced regularly by having ducts cleaned and filters replaced.

Use a HEPA filter in the home air filters and vacuum cleaners. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Arrester. This type of air filter is designed to absorb most particles floating in the air and keep vacuumed dust from escaping from the vacuum cleaner back into the air.

What are Histamines?

Should your medical provider determine that you have allergies, it is important that you understand the process of your body's response. Simply stated, your immune system "misreads" certain common substances ( pollen, dust, mold, etc.) as "invading" agents. In its efforts to defend your body from attack, certain "troops" are called out. These troops are called antibodies and their function is to attack foreign invaders. The over production of these antibodies causes an array of changes within you, including cell erosion and the subsequent release of histamine. Histamine reactions include the production of mucous. This may be why you have a stuffy or runny nose and your eyes are watery. This may also be the reason that you have been taking antihistamines.