Nothing to sneeze at: Tips to reduce exposure to allergy triggers

Spring will get here eventually. When it finally arrives it will bring warm sunshine, blooming plants…and allergy symptoms for seasonal sufferers.

The most effective way to manage any allergy is to avoid the substance that triggers the allergy (i.e. the allergen). However, this is often easier said than done, particularly for seasonal allergies. If total avoidance is not feasible, attempts to minimize exposure to allergen(s) are important and can often bring significant reduction in allergy symptoms.

Keep in mind that allergy symptoms are not experienced until a person’s allergy threshold has been reached. It’s like having a container that holds allergens–once that container is filled, any additional allergen exposure overflows the container and allergy symptoms are felt. Some people have very low thresholds and experience symptoms with minimal exposure. Others have higher thresholds and can avoid allergy symptoms by limiting allergen exposure, even if it is not possible to avoid them altogether.

Below are some tips for reducing exposure to allergic triggers. Think about where you spend much of your time (the bedroom is the number one place in a home to affect allergies) and start there with allergen reduction efforts–you may be able to noticeably (and happily) reduce your allergy symptoms.

DUST MITES

Encase mattresses, pillows and box springs in zippered, allergen-proof coverings (check that they actually say certified allergen and/or dust mite barrier–covers against bed bugs only do not provide protection against dust mites)

Wash bedding weekly in hot (130F) water

Vacuum frequently (use vacuum with HEPA filter)

Keep humidity below 50% with dehumidifier or by running air conditioning in warm weather

Change furnace and air conditioning filters

Minimize extra fabric (e.g. pillow shams, dust ruffles, decorative pillows, throw rugs)

 

MOLDS (INDOOR)

Fix water leaks

Thoroughly dry clothes before storing

Use bleach solution to clean moldy surfaces

 

PETS (fur is not the usually the problem, it is animal dander (skin flakes), saliva and urine that cause allergy issues)

Keep pets out of bedrooms and off furniture

Bathe pets weekly with warm water and pet shampoo

Use HEPA filters in the home and in vacuums

Wash hands after petting/playing/feeding pets

 

POLLEN (tree pollens=spring, grass pollen=late spring-summer, weeds=summer-fall)

Shower and wash hair after working/playing outside, and change clothes

Keep windows closed, especially in the bedroom

Use clothes dryer rather than hanging clothes to dry outside

Keep your lawn mowed to two inches or shorter

Be mindful of pollen counts (www.pollen.com)

Take advantage of outdoor time after it rains (when pollen counts are lowest)

 

MOLDS (OUTDOOR)

Avoid mowing grass, raking leaves, or handling mulch and compost. If you must do these activities, wear a face mask

Use air conditioner on recirculate rather than drawing in outdoor air

Keep doors and windows closed

 

Last but not least, remember that not all stuffy noses and itchy eyes are allergy-related. Environmental irritants can trigger symptoms that feel like allergies. Common culprits include: smoke (direct and second-hand), paint/cleaning agents, air pollution, perfume, and aerosol sprays.

 – Megan Richardson, Family Nurse Practitioner

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