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ACAAI > Patients & Public > Living & Managing > Trigger Avoidance
 
How to Avoid Allergies

Trigger Avoidance

The best defense is to avoid the allergens that cause your symptoms. This is not always easy to do, especially if the problem is plant pollens, mold, or other substances in the air that are difficult to avoid.

If it's not possible to avoid an allergen, there are things you can do to decrease your exposure. Here are some steps you can take to avoid contact with allergens and irritants.

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Allergens

Dust Mites Pollen Pets Mold Cockroaches Irritants

Dust Mites

Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and carpets. No matter how clean your house is, it's impossible to completely get rid of dust mites. However, you can limit contact, especially in the bedroom, if you:

  • Put special dust-proof covers on pillows, mattresses and box springs. Remove and clean the covers frequently.
  • Avoid bedding stuffed with foam rubber or kapok.
  • Limit the number of stuffed animals kept in bedrooms or put them in plastic containers.

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Dust Mites, cont. (2)

  • Remove or limit carpeting in the home. If possible, replace it with hardwood, vinyl, or linoleum floors that are easier to clean.
  • Vacuum the carpets you do have once or twice a week. Use a cyclonic vacuum, which spins dust and dirt away from the floor, or a vacuum with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. Vacuums with HEPA filters can trap a large amount of very small particles that other vacuum cleaners cannot.
  • Wash bedding and stuffed animals in hot water (130°F) weekly.

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Dust Mites, cont. (3)

  • Use air conditioning to keep humidity low (below 40 percent to 50 percent) to slow down dust mite growth during warm weather.
  • Change air conditioning and furnace filters every three months, and use filters with a MERV rating of 8 to 12. A MERV rating tells you how well the filter removes dust from the air as it passes through the filter.
  • Cover windows with washable curtains or window shades.

Pollen

Grasses, trees and weeds produce pollens that travel through the air and are inhaled. They cause seasonal allergy symptoms and trigger asthma. Pollens from trees are higher in the spring, grasses in the summer and weeds in the fall. This may vary depending on weather conditions and where you live. If possible:

  • Keep windows closed during pollen season, especially during the day.
  • Stay inside during mid-day and afternoon hours when pollen counts are highest.
  • Take a shower, wash your hair, and change clothing after working or playing outdoors.

Pets

Allergic reactions to pets are caused by the animal's dander. Short-haired pets are not any less likely to cause a reaction than long-haired animals.

If you have an allergy to animals, it's best not to get a new pet. If you already have a pet you cannot live without, you should:

  • Keep the pet outdoors or restrict it to a few rooms in the house. At the very least, keep the pet outside of the bedroom.
  • Wash hands after petting.
  • Bathe your pet once a week to reduce dander.

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Pets, Cont.

  • Vacuum carpets once or twice a week. Use a cyclonic vacuum, which spins dust and dirt away from the floor or a vacuum with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. Vacuums with HEPA filters can trap a large amount of very small particles that other vacuum cleaners cannot.
  • Change air conditioning and furnace filters every three months, and use filters with a MERV rating of 8 to 12. A MERV rating tells you how well the filter removes dust from the air as it passes through the filter.

Mold

Molds are found in outdoor air and can enter your home any time you open a door or window. Any house can develop a mold problem with the right conditions. Molds like to grow on wallboard, wood, or fabrics, but they will grow any place. They thrive in damp basements and closets, bathrooms (especially showers), places where fresh food is stored, refrigerator drip trays, house plants, air conditioners, humidifiers, garbage pails, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and old foam rubber pillows.

You can control mold in your home if you:

  • Clean bathrooms, kitchens, and basements regularly and keep them well aired.
  • Do not use humidifiers.

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Mold, cont. (2)

  • Use dehumidifiers in damp areas with the humidity level set for less than 50 percent but above 25 percent. Drain and clean the unit regularly.
  • Clean visible mold on walls, floors, and ceilings using a 5 percent bleach solution and detergent. If you are sensitive to cleaning products, avoid their direct use or have someone else handle them.
  • Fix leaky faucets and pipes.
  • Remove or limit carpeting in the home. If possible, replace it with hardwood, vinyl, or linoleum floors that are easier to clean.

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Mold, cont. (3)

  • Limit the number of indoor plants that may harbor molds in the potting soil. Also avoid dried flowers, which may contain mold.
  • Change air conditioning and furnace filters every three months, and use filters with a MERV rating of 8 to 12. A MERV rating tells you how well the filter can remove dust from the air as it passes through the filter.

Cockroaches

Cockroach droppings can not only trigger allergies but can trigger and bother asthma. Since cockroaches require food and moisture to survive, you can help reduce exposure by getting rid of sources of each. In some cases, you may need to hire an exterminator to get cockroaches under control. The following steps also should be taken:

  • Keep your kitchen clean and wash dishes promptly.
  • Make sure all food is stored in sealed containers.
  • Empty garbage and recycle bins frequently.
  • Avoid leaving food out.
  • Set roach traps.
  • Seal cracks in your home to prevent infestation.

Irritants

  • Smoke – Avoid tobacco smoke and do not allow anyone to smoke in your home or car. If you smoke, try to quit. Do not use woodburning stoves or fireplaces.
  • Odors – Stay away from strong odors such as perfume, hair spray, paint, cooking exhaust, cleaning products and insecticides. Room air fresheners and electronic air cleaners also can trigger symptoms.
  • Cold air – Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf.
  • Colds and infections – Wash hands frequently.
  • Exhaust – If you have an attached garage, don't start the car and let it run in there. Fumes can make their way into the home even when the garage door is open.

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Irritants, cont.

  • Chemicals – Store chemicals such as insecticides and gas in an area away from the home.