It is almost impossible to avoid allergens. However, these simple environmental control measures will help reduce your exposure to indoor and outdoor allergens which ultimately can help improve your symptoms.
Pollen and Outdoor Allergens
It is extremely difficult to control exposure to outdoor allergens. Pollens tend to travel great distances from their original source, and removing them is virtually impossible. Pollinating seasons are:
• Trees - March through May
• Grasses - May through July
• Ragweed and other weeds - August through October
Pollen counts may vary throughout the course of a day:
• Trees - Pollen counts peak in early morning
• Ragweed and other weeds - Pollen counts peak in late morning
• Grasses - Pollen counts peak in early to mid-afternoon
The following control measures are designed to minimize exposure to allergens and to keep them out of your home.
• Pollen counts are highest on dry, windy days. Patients should avoid outdoor activities during these times.
• During the spring, early summer, and early fall, keep the windows and doors closed in both home and car.
• Use an air conditioner during the pollen season to reduce the level of pollen exposure.
• If your symptoms are severe, avoidance of certain outdoor activities during peak pollen seasons may be necessary.
• Do not hang clothing out to dry where it can trap airborne pollens.
• Pets can be a source of pollen, and they tend to collect it in their fur while outdoors.
Sensitive individuals should avoid fur bearing animals. Dander, hair, and saliva are all sources of pet allergens, so keep pets out of the home if possible.
Cat and dog allergens can remain in the air and dust for long periods of time. Thus, it may take time to experience the benefit of removing pets from the home.
If you are unable to remove pets from your home, you may find the following measures helpful:
● Keep pets out of the bedroom and isolate them to rooms that have hard surfaces that can be washed on a regular basis.
● Make sure to wash cats once a week and dogs twice a week to decrease the buildup of allergen in the dust reservoirs within your home.
● Wash all area rugs that your pets use to rest on every 7 to 14 days.
● Carpets can serve as a gathering place for pet allergens and can accumulate pet allergens faster than hard surfaces or smooth flooring.
● Mopping or washing hard surfaces on a regular basis can remove approximately 90% of surface mites and pet allergens.
● Use a vacuum cleaner that has a good HEPA filter. A HEPA filter can help trap airborne allergens and potential toxins.
● Clothing that has been contaminated with pet allergens should be washed regularly. Large amounts of pet allergens can be found in the dust from bedding, carpets, and clothing.
Air cleaners can help reduce airborne cat and dog allergen levels and should be used in any areas of the home that pets have access to. It is recommended that air cleaners be used in the bedroom and living room.
Dust mites are microscopic eight-legged creatures that are closely related to ticks and spiders. They can thrive in warm, humid areas and live primarily off the scales of human skin.
Newer energy efficient homes tend to have higher indoor temperature and humidity levels due to reduced ventilation. Dust mites will breed in areas like mattresses, pillows, bedding, carpet, upholstered furniture and stuffed animals. Thus, your bedroom should be the first area to focus on.
Bed: Mattress, box spring, and pillows should be covered with allergy resistant protective covers. Vinyl and plastic are sufficient but are not as durable and comfortable as airtight cloth covers.
Bedding: Wash all bed linens in hot water at a minimum temperature of 130 degrees at least once every 2 weeks.
Dust collectors: If possible, avoid unnecessary items that are made from fabric like stuffed animals. Stuffed animals can be placed in a freezer for 12 hours every 2 weeks to kill dust mites. Extra pillows, comforters with down or feather, and heavy drapes should be removed from the bedroom. Avoid wall pennants and other fabric in the room.
Dust: Carefully dust with a damp rag once or twice a week.
Humidification: Avoid the use of humidifiers and vaporizers in bedrooms. Use dehumidifiers in a basement and in the rest of the house during the summer. Try to keep the humidity levels below 45%. Low humidity levels will kill most of the dust mites.
Floors: Hard surface floors that can be damp dusted are preferable. If carpet cannot be avoided, the following options are available.
• Vacuum with an effective HEPA filter twice a week.
• A vacuum cleaner with an electrostatic filter if a HEPA filter is not available.
• Use a dust mite pesticide such as Acarosan. A tannic acid solution will also help break down dust mite allergens.
• Closets should be used for clothing only.
• Because dust mite allergens are carried on large particles that settle rapidly out of the air, air cleaners provide little or no benefit.
• Remove pets from the bedrooms where they can shed dander which dust mites thrive on.
Allergy to cockroaches is extremely common. Cockroaches can be found in schools, office buildings, and can go undetected in the home.
Cockroach allergens can be found in cockroach body parts, feces, and other secretions. They are common triggers for asthma and allergic rhinitis.
Use the following measures to eradicate cockroaches from your home:
• Have your home professionally exterminated.
• Use roach bait and traps.
• Clean thoroughly after extermination.
• Remove water sources.
• Seal cracks and other entry points in your home.
• Clean your kitchen after cooking.
• Store all food in sealed containers, including pet foods.
• Wash dirty dishes immediately after eating.
• Restrict meals and snacks to one or two areas in your home.
• Keep household trash in a tightly covered container and empty daily.
• Clean your kitchen cupboards and cabinets on a regular basis.
Molds are microscopic organisms that grow in damp places. They can be found in both indoor and outdoor environments. Molds can grow where there is sufficient moisture and warmth. The most common areas for indoor mold growth are basement walls, floors, window molding, shower curtains, bathroom walls, and ceilings. Aspergillus and Penicillium molds are most prevalent in indoor environments. You can use the following measures to remove mold growth from the home:
• Use a good dehumidifier in damp areas of the home.
• Thoroughly clean bathroom tiles and grout on a regular basis using a mold-specific disinfectant like Lysol or Clorox.
• Cover all mattresses and pillows in air tight covers so that they do not become damp or humid.
• Remove all carpets in basements that have repeatedly become damp. Remove carpet from bathrooms and replace with a hard surface such as tile.
• Have your air conditioner system cleaned and inspected regularly for mold. Clean or replace the filter frequently and check the central humidifier for mold.
• House plants are not a major source of indoor molds. However, they should be cleaned regularly. Try not to stir up the soil and keep plants out of the bedroom.
• Molds tend to grow in closets that are damp and dark. Dry out clothes and shoes thoroughly before storing them in closets. Keep wool clothing, leather goods, and other textiles in dry closets.
• Check all foods for mold growth and clean trash cans regularly.
• You should store firewood outdoors as mold can grow on the bark of the wood. Burning moldy woods can aggravate asthma and allergies. Christmas trees may also introduce mold spores into the home.
• Seal windows tightly and wipe away condensation.
• Properly vent the clothes dryer to the outside of your utility room.
Outdoor molds can grow in fallen leaves, soil, moist debris, and wooded areas. They peak in summer and fall and taper off after the first frost. Mold can thrive year-round in tropical climates. Alternaria and Cladosporium are the most prevalent outdoor molds.
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