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Allergies Health Center

Living With Severe Allergies

Experts share 3 strategies to cope with chronic allergies.
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Allergy Strategy 2: Control Your Allergens

Once you know your target, you can start to eliminate or control it.

Controlling Animal Dander

Lovable as household pets may be, they can create big problems for people with allergies, says Michael M. Miller, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, Knoxville.

The offending allergen is a protein found in the saliva, dead skin scales (called dander) or the urine of an animal with fur, including dogs and cats, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. The protein, when airborne, can land in the eyes or nose or be inhaled into the lungs.

Allergy symptoms can pop up immediately after contact or even up to 12 hours later.

The only way to eliminate the allergen, allergists say, is to get rid of the pets. But the advice often falls on deaf ears, Williams says. "Most of the time, patients won't eliminate the pet from their environment."

Even if an allergic person does part with a dog, the animal's allergens may hang on in the house for a year or longer, according to the Academy.

If parting with the pet is not possible, Williams says:  "Keep the pet out of the bedroom and no carpeting in the bedroom." Hardwood or tile floors collect less allergen. Damp mop floors often to reduce allergen levels, he suggests.

"Have at least one 'safe zone' in the house" if you can't part with a pet, advises Neeti Gupta, MD, an allergist in East Windsor, N.J.  Your bedroom would be ideal as a safe room that's off limits to your pet.

Brushing a dog regularly -- outdoors, so the allergen doesn't get trapped inside -- can also help, Williams says.

And if you're furniture shopping for sofas or chairs, pick leather over fabric if possible, Williams says. "You can wipe it off," he says.

Controlling Dust Mites

Dust mites feed on common house dust, a mixture of small pieces of plant and animal material. The microscopic creatures also cling to carpets, bedding and furniture.  The dust mites' fecal matter contains the allergens, Williams says, and these allergens are airborne for a short time before dropping to surfaces. "Most exposure comes from being up close and personal with the dust mite."

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