Along with the changing of the seasons comes pollen, which can trigger allergies in many people.
But there are common indoor irritants, such as dust mites and pet dander, that can cause allergies all year round. Symptoms for both seasonal and perennial allergies include the stuffy or a runny nose, watery eyes, congestion, sneezing, hives, and itchy eyes, nose, or mouth.
Allergies and allergy medicines can affect blood sugar levels, so it is important to prevent symptoms before they start. Here are some tips for avoiding common allergens:
Dust mites can cause irritation and itching. They live in bedding, pillows, and mattresses. The best way to avoid dust mites is to encase pillows and mattresses in dust mite allergen covers.
You should also wash your sheets in hot water (130° F) every week.
Blankets and comforters should be washed once or twice a month. Dust mites can also live in decorative pillows and stuffed animals.
If they can’t be machine washed, place them in the freezer for 24-48 hours to kill dust mites, then wash them by hand in soapy water.
Dust mites also live in carpets. If possible, replace wall-to-wall carpets with washable throw rugs over hardwood, tile, or linoleum floors.
Wash the rugs often in hot water and mop the floors with a damp cloth.
Vacuum regularly with a machine that has a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Regular vacuums only redistribute mites throughout the room.
Cockroaches are another common trigger of allergies. They can usually be found in the kitchen, where food and water sources are present. It is important to keep the kitchen clean.
Keep all food in sealed containers, clean the counters and floor often, and empty garbage cans regularly. Using bait traps in cabinets and behind the fridge may also be useful.
Many people are allergic to furry animals such as cats or dogs. Pet dander is animal saliva and dead skin, and it can trigger allergies. Pet dander is very small and can be inhaled deep into the lungs.
If you are allergic to your cat or dog, the most effective thing to do is remove the pet from your home. This is often the least desirable option. Fortunately, there are other ways to reduce pet dander in your home.
To reduce allergy symptoms caused by pet dander, keep your pet out of your bedroom. Bathe your cat or dog at least once a week and wipe it with a wet cloth or towel daily.
If possible, remove wall-to-wall carpets, which collect animal allergens. Use vacuums and room air cleaners that have HEPA filters. Pet dander can remain in the house long after your pet has gone, so it is important to steam clean carpets and upholstered furniture.
You should also vacuum hardwood floors and wipe down all other hard surfaces and furniture.
Mold spores are another cause of allergies. Mold needs a water source to thrive and therefore it grows in damp environments. To prevent mold from growing, you need to reduce the moisture in your house.
One way to do this is to use dehumidifiers. Fix any water leaks you may have in your bathroom, kitchen, or basement. Frequently clean shower curtains, bathroom windows, and damp walls with a mixture of water and chlorine to kill mold.
Don’t put carpet in your bathroom or other damp rooms, and use mold-proof paint instead of wallpaper. Plants can carry mold, so you should limit the number of household plants you have as well.
Pollen is the main cause of seasonal allergies. Pollens are tiny, powdery grains released from flowering plants that are carried by the wind or insects to pollinate other plants.
When pollen is present in the air, it can land in your eyes, nose, lungs, and skin, and trigger allergies. It is easier to control allergens in your house, such as dust and mold, than it is to control pollen, which is blowing around in the air.
However, there are steps you can take to minimize your exposure to pollen.
Check the Weather
The level of pollen in the air can vary from day to day, so be sure to check the allergy forecast for your area before going outside.
Try to stay indoors with the windows closed on days when the pollen count is high and on windy days. Stay inside during peak pollen time, which is usually between 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.
If you have to go outside, you may want to consider wearing a facemask designed to filter out pollen. When driving in a car, you should keep your windows rolled up to prevent pollen from entering.
Shower after spending time outdoors to wash away any pollen in your hair or on your skin.
It may not be possible to prevent allergies completely, but by taking some of these steps, you should be able to ease your allergy suffering.
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Indoor Allergens: Tips to Remember (Accessed 12/14/17.) American Academy of Family Physicians. Allergic Rhinitis (Accessed 12/14/11.) FDA. Itching for Allergy Relief? (Accessed 12/14/17.)
Reviewed by Jason C. Baker, MD