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How to Allergy-Proof Your World

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on June 13, 2021

Medicines help treat allergy symptoms once they strike. But these easy steps can help you avoid having an attack no matter where you are.

At Home

  • Keep windows closed and run the air conditioner if you're allergic to pollen. Don't use fans -- they can stir up dust.
  • Filter the air. Cover air conditioning vents with cheesecloth to trap pollen. Use HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters, and clean them often. Hire someone to clean out your air ducts at least once a year.
  • Keep the humidity in your home below 50% to help prevent mold growth.
  • If you have pets, consider keeping them outside. If your allergies are severe, you might ask someone else to take care of them. Animal dander and saliva are common allergens for many people. If you decide to keep your pets inside, don’t let them in your bedroom. Bathe them often, too.
  • Avoid areas where mold can collect, like basements, garages, crawl spaces, barns, and compost heaps. Have someone else clean these areas often.
  • Install dehumidifiers in your basement and other parts of the home where mold grows. Clean these devices every week.
  • Get mold testing kits from a big-box store or hardware store. They’re easy to use and will tell you how much mold is in your home. If there’s a lot, you can work to get rid of it, especially in the rooms where you spend most of your time.
  • Air out damp clothes and shoes inside before you store them.
  • Remove laundry from the washing machine promptly. Don't leave wet clothes in the washer, where mold can quickly grow.
  • Make sure your clothes dryer is vented to the outside.
  • Wash shower curtains and bathroom tiles with mold-killing solutions.
  • Don't collect too many indoor plants. Soil encourages mold growth.
  • Store firewood outside.
  • Use plastic covers for pillows, mattresses, and box springs. Avoid overstuffed furniture and down-filled bedding or pillows.
  • Wash your bedding every week in hot water.
  • Don't allow anyone to smoke in your home.
  • Skip the scented products. Cologne, cleaning supplies, potpourri, and beauty products with fragrance can cause an allergic reaction.
  • Wear a mask and gloves when you clean, vacuum, or paint. That will limit your exposure to dust and chemicals.
  • Don't use cleaning sprays that can leave chemicals hanging in the air. Consider “green” cleaners like white vinegar or a baking soda paste.
  • Vacuum once or twice a week.
  • Limit how many throw rugs you keep to reduce dust and mold. If you do have them, make sure you can wash them.
  • When possible, choose hardwood floors. If you must have carpeting, go with a low-pile option.
  • Avoid dust-collecting Venetian blinds or long drapes. Replace old window coverings with shades or shutters.
  • Install an exhaust fan over your stove to remove cooking fumes.

In the Car

  • Keep windows closed, and set the air conditioner to use recirculated air if you’re allergic to pollen.
  • Don't let anyone smoke.

In the Great Outdoors

  • Take fewer walks in wooded areas or gardens.
  • Check the forecast. Stay indoors as much as possible on hot, dry, windy days, when pollen counts are highest.
  • Try to avoid extreme temperature changes -- they can trigger asthma.
  • If you can, stay inside between 5 and 10 a.m., when outdoor pollen counts are highest.
  • Wear a mask (a cheap painter's mask is OK) when you mow if you’re allergic to grass pollen or mold. But skip the task if someone else can do it. It smells great, but keep your distance from freshly cut grass, too, if you can.
  • Wear a mask in the garden. Flowers and weeds give off pollen.
  • Wear a baseball cap to protect your scalp and face from pollen. 
  • Don’t rake leaves or work with hay or mulch if you’re allergic to mold.
  • When you come back inside, take a shower, wash your hair, and change your clothes. That’ll get rid of pollen that may have collected in your clothes and hair.
  • To protect yourself from insect stings, wear shoes, long pants, and sleeves. Don’t use scented deodorants, perfumes, shampoos, or hair products.
  • If you have severe allergies and your doctor has prescribed an epinephrine injector kit, carry it with you at all times.
  • Don't hang clothes or linens out to dry. They’ll collect pollen and mold.

Traveling

  • Pack medicines in your carry-on bag.
  • Bring an extra supply of meds in case you need them.
  • Check the pollen counts at your destination.
  • Locate the nearest hospital or urgent care center. You probably won't need it, but it may make you feel better.
  • If you have food allergies, pack safe snacks in your carry-on so you won't have to take a chance on airline food or things you buy in in train stations, rest stops, and airports.
  • Book an early flight. Allergen levels tend to be lowest in the morning because most airlines clean their planes at the end of the business day. 

 

In a Hotel

  • Ask for a nonsmoking room. Some hotels even offer asthma- and allergy-friendly rooms.
  • Ask about the hotel's pet policy. If you have dander allergies, you probably don't want to stay in one that calls itself pet-friendly.
  • Choose a hotel that offers rooms with kitchens so you can prepare your own meals allergen-free.
  • Remove feather pillows and ask for synthetic, nonallergenic pillows. Or bring your own plastic pillow cover from home.
  • If possible, keep the vent on the room air conditioner shut.

Out for Dinner

  • Choose smoke-free restaurants.
  • Avoid ingredients that trigger your food allergies. Read menus carefully, and ask your sever how the dish is made. Choose fresh foods over prepared or processed ones. If you have an epinephrine shot kit, keep it with you at all times. If your doctor has prescribed two, keep them both nearby.

At Your Kid’s School

  • Discuss your child's allergies with the staff.
  • If they have food allergies, tell the front office, their teachers, and lunchroom workers.
  • Teach your child about their allergies early. That’ll make them less likely to eat something that will trigger an allergic reaction.
  • Leave one or two epinephrine kits at the school. Make sure the staff -- and your child, when they are old enough -- are able to use it correctly.
  • Tell them about any other medicines your child is taking. Make sure the school has doses of anything they need.
  • Have your child tell you when they have symptoms at school, so you can try to track down what’s causing them.
  • Encourage them to play sports, but let their coaches know if they need to take medicine before they hit the field.
  • On high-pollen days, give your child medication before they go to school. Have them wear a hat during recess or P.E., and teach them to wash their face and hands when they come inside. Ask their teachers if they can keep the windows closed.  
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES: 

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: "Indoor Air Quality and Allergies," "Tips to Control Indoor Allergens," "What is Anaphylaxis?" "Allergy Overview."

UpToDate: "Long-term management of patients with anaphylaxis."

 

Ecology Center: "Alternative Cleaning Recipes."

Harold S. Nelson, MD, allergist, National Jewish Health, Denver.

John Sundy, MD, allergist, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC.

James Sublett, MD, allergist, Louisville, Ky.

Linda Ford, MD, allergist, Papillion, Ne.

Warren Filley, MD, allergist, Oklahoma City, Okla.

Jennifer Derebery, MD, allergist, House Clinic, Los Angeles.

Paul Ratner, MD, allergist; medical director, Sylvana Research, San Antonio.

American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology: “Dust Allergy.”

National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences: “Cigarette Smoke.”

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network: "About Food Allergy."

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: "Allergy."

Anne Miranowski, MD, pediatric allergist, The Pediatric Lung Center, Fairfax, VA.

KidsHealth: "Food Allergies and Travel" and "Food allergies."

Food Allergy Initiative: "Traveling."

Clifford Bassett, MD, allergy specialist, New York; vice chair, public education committee, American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.

Asriani Chiu, MD, associate professor of allergy, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

 

 

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