Airborne Allergies - Prevention
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Pollen and Molds
Complete avoidance of allergenic pollen or mold means moving to a place where the offending substance does not grow and where it is not present in the air. Even this extreme solution may offer only temporary relief because a person sensitive to a specific pollen or mold may develop allergies to new allergens after repeated exposure to them. For example, people allergic to ragweed may leave their ragweed-ridden communities and relocate to areas where ragweed does not grow, only to develop allergies to other weeds or even to grasses or trees in their new surroundings. Because relocating is not a reliable solution, allergy specialists do not encourage this approach.
There are other ways to reduce exposure to offending pollens.
- Remain indoors with the windows closed in the morning, for example, when the outdoor pollen levels are highest. Sunny, windy days can be especially troublesome.
- Wear a face mask designed to filter pollen out of the air and keep it from reaching nasal passages, if you must work outdoors.
- Take your vacation at the height of the expected pollinating period and choose a location where such exposure would be minimal.
Vacationing at the seashore or on a cruise, for example, may be effective retreats for avoiding pollen allergies.
If you have dust mite allergy, pay careful attention to dust-proofing your bedroom. The worst things to have in the bedroom are
- Wall-to-wall carpet
- Down-filled blankets
- Feather pillows
- Stuffed animals
- Heating vents with forced hot air
- Dogs and cats
- Closets full of clothing
Carpets trap dust and make dust control impossible.
- Shag carpets are the worst type of carpet for people who are sensitive to dust mites.
- Vacuuming doesn’t get rid of dust mite proteins in furniture and carpeting, but redistributes them back into the room, unless the vacuum has a special HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter.
- Rugs on concrete floors encourage dust mite growth.
If possible, replace wall-to-wall carpets with washable throw rugs over hardwood, tile, or linoleum floors, and wash the rugs frequently.
Reducing the amount of dust mites in your home may mean new cleaning techniques as well as some changes in furnishings to eliminate dust collectors. Water is often the secret to effective dust removal.
- Clean washable items, including throw rugs, often, using water hotter than 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower temperatures will not kill dust mites.
- Clean washable items at a commercial establishment that uses high water temperature, if you cannot or do not want to set water temperature in your home at 130 degrees. (There is a danger of getting scalded if the water is more than 120 degrees.)
- Dust frequently with a damp cloth or oiled mop.
If cockroaches are a problem in your home, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests some ways to get rid of them.
- Do not leave food or garbage out.
- Store food in airtight containers.
- Clean all food crumbs or spilled liquids right away.
- Try using poison baits, boric acid (for cockroaches), or traps first, before using pesticide sprays.
If you use sprays:
- Do not spray in food preparation or storage areas.
- Do not spray in areas where children play or sleep.
- Limit the spray to the infested area.
- Follow instructions on the label carefully.
- Make sure there is plenty of fresh air when you spray.
- Keep the person with allergies or asthma out of the room while spraying.
If you or your child is allergic to furry pets, especially cats, the best way to avoid allergic reactions is to find them another home. If you are like most people who are attached to their pets, that is usually not a desirable option. There are ways, however, to help lower the levels of animal allergens in the air, which may reduce allergic reactions.
- Bathe your cat weekly and brush it more frequently (ideally, a non-allergic person should do this).
- Keep cats out of your bedroom.
- Remove carpets and soft furnishings, which collect animal allergens.
- Use a vacuum cleaner and room air cleaners with HEPA filters.
- Wear a face mask while house and cat cleaning.
Irritants such as chemicals can worsen airborne allergy symptoms, and you should avoid them as much as possible. For example, if you have pollen allergy, avoid unnecessary exposure to irritants such as insect sprays, tobacco smoke, air pollution, and fresh tar or paint during periods of high pollen levels.
Air Conditioners and Filters
When possible, use air conditioners inside your home or car to help prevent pollen and mold allergens from entering. Various types of air-filtering devices made with fiberglass or electrically charged plates may help reduce allergens produced in the home. You can add these to your present heating and cooling system. In addition, portable devices that can be used in individual rooms are especially helpful in reducing animal allergens.
An allergist can suggest which kind of filter is best for your home. Before buying a filtering device, rent one and use it in a closed room (the bedroom, for instance) for a month or two to see whether your allergy symptoms diminish. The airflow should be sufficient to exchange the air in the room five or six times per hour. Therefore, the size and efficiency of the filtering device should be determined in part by the size of the room.
You should be wary of exaggerated claims for appliances that cannot really clean the air. Very small air cleaners cannot remove dust and pollen. No air purifier can prevent viral or bacterial diseases such as the flu, pneumonia, or tuberculosis.
Before buying an electrostatic precipitator, you should compare the machine’s ozone output with Federal standards. Ozone can irritate the noses and airways of people with allergies, especially those with asthma, and can increase their allergy symptoms. Other kinds of air filters, such as HEPA filters, do not release ozone into the air. HEPA filters, however, require adequate air flow to force air through them.
(extracted from Airborne Allergens: Something in the Air)