Avoiding Allergy Triggers

AAAAI Rhinitis Video

After the offending allergen has been identified by allergy testing, avoidance of the allergen, whether it be a food, drug, or airborne protein like dust mites or pollen, is the next critical step. Avoidance can significantly reduce symptoms related to allergies and is of vital importance particularly in food and drug allergies.


  • House Dust Mites

House dust mites are the major cause of year-round itchy and runny nose, itchy watery eyes, sneezing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

What are Dust Mites?

Dust mites belong to the family of 8-legged creatures called Arachnids. They are microscopic and eat particles of skin and dander and thrive in bedding, carpeting, upholstered furniture, clothing, closets, and car seats which are all likely to contain skin particles. They are harmful only to people who become allergic to them. People allergic to dust mites react to proteins in the bodies and digestive waste (feces) of the mites. When allergic people inhale these particles, they start itching, sneezing, or wheezing.

What can be done to avoid Dust Mites?

Taking steps to minimize dust mite exposure in the bedroom often leads to a decrease in symptoms and medication requrements. Emphasis is placed on the bedroom since people spend a third of 24 hours there and because it has the greatest number of dust mites. The mattress, pillows, and boxspring should b encased in zippered, allergen-impermeable covers, and other bedding should be washed frequently in hot water (130 degrees Fahrenheit) every week.

Dust mites grow best at 75-80% relative humidity and cannot live at under 50% humidity. The ideal relative humidity to eliminate them is 40-50%. Use a humidity gauge (hygrometer) and a dehumidifier.

Source: AAAAI Indoor Allergen Tips

  • Pet Dander

More than 70% of US households have a dog or cat. An estimated 10% of the population may be allergic to animals. The number of pets in the US is estimated at more than 100 million which increases the likelihood of accidental exposure to animals by people with allergies when visiting pet owners.

The dander, or skin flakes, as well as the saliva and urine of pets, can cause an allergic reaction. Animal hair is not considered a significant allergen but the hair or fur collects pollen, dust, mold, and other allergens.

Those pets that are known to cause allergic reactions should be removed from the home of the allergic person to avoid worsening of symptoms. Keeping the animal outdoors is only a partial solution, since studies show that homes with pets kept in the yard still have higher allergen concentrations than homes without pets. A “trial” removal of a pet for a few days or even weeks is of little value since you need at least 6 months of avoidance for allergen levels to drop to levels in homes without pets.

Short of removing the pet from the house permanently, here are some tips to reduce pet dander exposure:

1. Keep the pet out of the bedroom, if possible, out of the house.

2. Have a non-allergic person bathe the pet weekly to reduce amount of dander released.

4. Remove or reduce carpet floor coverage and replace bedding and carpeting

3. Have a non-allergic person clean the pet’s litter box or cage regularly.[/ that has animal dander in it.

5. Use High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Clearners.

6. Cover Upholstery or use sofa and seat covers that can be easily cleaned or wiped down.

  • Mold:

Molds are microscopic fungi which, unlike plants, are unable to produce their own food from sunlight and air. Many molds reproduce by releasing spores into the air which then settle on organic matter and grow into new mold clusters. Airborne mold spores are more numerous than pollen grains, and when inhaled, can produce allergic symptoms.

Molds can be found wherever there is moisture, oxygen, and a source of the few other chemicals they need. Growth is encouraged by warmth and high humidity. Hot spots of mold growth in the home include damp basements and closets, bathrooms (especially shower stalls), places where fresh food is stored, refrigerator drip trays, house plants, air conditioners, humidifers, garbage pails, mattresses, upholstered furniture and old foam rubber pillow.

Here are a few tips to decrease mold exposure indoors:

1. Keep humidity low, less than 50%. Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner with a hygrometer to monitor relative humidity.

2. Allow adequate ventilation. Use an exhaust fan particularly in the bathroom and kitchen or open windows to remove humidity from cooking or showers.

3. Clean visible mold from walls and ceilings. Wash the shower curtain, tiles, stall, tub, and toilet tank with mold-killing and mold-preventing solutions. (50/50 bleach and water mixture also works well)

4. Correct drainage problems near the house and correct seepage or flooding problems inside the house. Remove water-damaged carpet, if present.

5. Allergic persons should not have their bedroom on the basement level.

6. Do not carpet the bathroom and bedroom and avoid carpets on concrete floors, especially the basement. Tile, hardwood, or vinyl floors are a better choice.

7. Dry shoes and boots thoroughly before storing.

8. Empty water pans in self-defrosting refrigerators and throw out spoiling food immediately. Empty garbage containers frequently.

9. Limit the number of houseplants. Mold also grows on bark, do not store firewood indoors and avoid live Christmas trees.

10. Greenhouses, antique shops, saunas, sleeping bags, summer cottages, and hotel rooms are sources of high mold exposure. Automobile air conditioners may also harbor mold.

11. Keep compost piles away from the main house.


  • Pollen:

When outdoor pollens are high, remain indoors, particularly in the late morning. Pollen grains can cause significant allergic symptoms like asthma and allergic rhinitis, particularly during the spring and the fall. It is difficult to avoid pollen because it is windborne and can cover wide distances. Short of moving to a different location, here are some tips for avoiding pollen during the season.

  1. The pollen count is usually highest in the late morning and early afternoon particularly during sunny, windy days.
  2. The pollen count measures the concentration of a specific pollen like birch tree pollen, in the area in a specific area and time. A pollen count is a useful guide for when it is advisable to stay indoors and avoid contact with pollen.
  3. Keep the windows and doors closed during the allergy season.
  4. Install a room air conditioner with a special filter.The special filter (High Efficiency Particulate Air or HEPA filter) traps airborne allergens. If the house does not have central air, the best spot to put the air conditioner and filter would be the bedroom. Change the filters frequently. An allergic person should also use the car air conditioner to decrease pollen exposure when commuting. Pollen allergic persons should not have a window fan blowing into their bedroom as this will maintain outdoor pollen exposure all night.
  5. Avoid working outdoors, if you must wear a special face mask. The face mask is designed to filter pollen out of the air and keep it from reaching the nasal passages.
  6. Consider taking a vacation at the height of the pollen season. Preferably at a location where the pollen exposure is minimal, like the seashore.

Outdoor Mold:

Molds are microscopic fungi which, unlike plants, are unable to produce their own food from sunlight and air. They are made up of clusters of filaments and live on plant or animal matter, which they decompose for their nourishment. Molds reproduce by releasing spores into the air.

Airborne mold spores are far more numerous than pollen grains and can cause significant asthma, allergic rhinitis, and sinusitis.


  1. Avoid camping or walking in the woods where mold growth on rotted logs and vegetation is high.
  2. Avoid cutting grass, raking leaves, and exposure to soil, compost, sandboxes, hay, fertilizers, and barns.
  3. Wear a well fiting mask if outdoor work can not be avoided.

Source: AAAAI Outdoor Allergen Tips

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