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There are many types of allergens; therefore, it is nearly impossible to eliminate all allergens from your environment. However, there are certain things you can do to help reduce allergens and minimize your exposure to allergy triggers. While avoiding the allergens may eliminate your symptoms, it will not eliminate or reduce your sensitivity to that allergen, and symptoms will reoccur whenever you are re-exposed.

  • Control dust mites.
  • Control animal dander.
  • Control pests.
  • Control indoor molds.
  • Avoid airborne irritants.
  • Keep environments clean and dry.
  • Decrease exposure to outdoor allergens.

The primary indoor allergens are waste products from microscopic organisms called dust mites. Dust mites are especially prevalent in bedding, curtains, and carpeting.

To control dust mites:

  • Wash sheets and blankets weekly in hot water (130°F [54°C]) and dry in a hot dryer.
  • Cover mattresses and pillowcases with airtight allergen-proof covers.
  • Replace comforters and pillows made from natural materials (such as down, feathers, or cotton) with those made from synthetic fibers.
  • Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting (especially in the bedroom) as much as possible. If you have it, be sure to vacuum often.

It is not animal fur that causes allergies, but a protein that exists in the saliva, urine, and skin flakes (dander) of animals. If you have a pet allergy, you may need to take certain steps to minimize contact with your pet's saliva, urine, and skin flakes.

  • Keep your pet out of the rooms you use most frequently (such as the bedroom).
  • Have other nonallergic family members groom your pet as often as possible.

Be aware that you may have to remove your pet from your home if you or a family member is severely allergic.

Studies have shown that people who live in environments that contain cockroaches and mice have a higher incidence of asthma and allergies. If pests are a chronic problem in your home, consider hiring an exterminator.

Other tips to diminish pest infestation include:

  • Close all open gaps in windows, floorboards, doors, and around drains.
  • Fix and seal leaky water faucets and pipes because roaches need water and humidity to survive.
  • Always keep food in airtight containers.
  • Remove pet food dishes after pets have eaten.
  • Keep stove and kitchen surfaces free of food and dirt.

The spores of molds and fungi that thrive in warm, moist, and humid areas can create allergic reactions. To reduce indoor molds and fungi:

  • Remove any curtains, carpeting, or wallpaper that show visible evidence of mold.
  • Install exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Use dehumidifiers in damp areas such as the basement.
  • Avoid storing clothing in damp areas.
  • Do not carpet damp or concrete floors.
  • Use a solution of 1 part bleach and 20 parts water to clean areas with mold.

Air irritants and pollutants can trigger an allergic reaction. You can do the following to help reduce your exposure to airborne irritants:

  • Do not smoke or allow smoking in your home.
  • Avoid areas with fresh paint fumes.
  • Avoid the fumes of strong cleaning products.
  • Avoid perfumes and aerosols when possible.

Nearly all allergens thrive in moist, damp, or dirty environments. One of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of allergic rhinitis is to maintain a clean, dry environment. The following will help:

  • Clean and vacuum frequently, using HEPA filters.
  • Use fans to promote air circulation.
  • Use an electrostatic air purifier.
  • Use a dehumidifier in damp areas.

If you have allergies to pollens, molds, or other outdoor allergens:

  • Avoid raking, mowing, blowing leaves, and other outdoor activities that might put you in contact with allergens.
  • Gardening and farming are associated with high levels of exposure to molds. You may need to stop doing these activities.
  • Close windows and stay indoors (with air conditioning) when pollen counts are high.
  • Time your outdoor recreational activities (hiking, bicycling, camping) for when pollen counts are lower.

If your symptoms are not controlled or become severe despite lifestyle changes and over-the-counter allergy medications, contact your doctor for further care.

Revision Information

  • Advice from your allergist: Rhinitis. American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology website. Available at: http://www.acaai.org/public/advice/rhin.htm. Accessed September 15, 2008.

  • Carson-DeWitt R. Allergic rhinitis. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated November 2007. Accessed September 15, 2008.