How can I get rid of allergens?

The first step in getting rid of allergens is to know what allergens affect you. Allergy testing can be accomplished by your doctor and can indicate what types of allergens affect you. After that, the greatest deterrent against allergens is to not be around them. For example, if you are allergic to your cat, get rid of it.

Another allergy deterrent is to decrease indoor allergens—typically dust, pollen and pet dander—which can be accomplished by frequent and thorough cleaning, replacement of heating duct air filters, use of air conditioning rather than opening the windows and limiting pets to outdoors or only in certain areas of the house. Using mops and damp cloths to remove dust and particulate matter from your home is essential. Mold can also cause problems, so it is prudent to clean effectively with bleach and maintain a non-humid environment as much as possible. Lastly, do not smoke anywhere in the house.

You can reduce exposure to airborne allergens by using HEPA filters in your home ventilation system and vacuum and avoiding heavy drapes or carpeting and stuffed animals. Keep bedding clean and avoid pets like dogs and cats if you are allergic. If possible, avoid outdoor activities or wear a protective mask during days with high wind, when allergens are more likely to be in the air.

At least one out of every five Americans suffers from allergies. Common causes of allergy symptoms include food, seasonal and pet allergies. Symptoms range from itchy eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion and wheezing to skin conditions causing rashes and itching. These steps can help to minimize allergy symptoms:

  • Watch the weather: As the weather gets warmer, pollens and molds are released into the air. If you have seasonal allergies, check your local pollen forecasts.
  • Wear shades: Jackie Onassis did. Audrey Hepburn did. You should too—at least when pollen counts are high. Big sunglasses will help keep pollen out of your eyes—especially on windy days.
  • Reschedule your workout: On peak pollen days, experts recommend staying inside during the day when pollen counts are higher. But that doesn’t have to derail outdoor exercise. Instead, ride your bike, walk or run in the evening. Shower when you come indoors.
  • Clean house: Vacuum carpets in your home once a week with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters trap allergens. Put HEPA filters on vents if you have central heating and air-conditioning.
  • Talk to your doctor: If over-the-counter allergy medications don’t provide relief, an allergist can dig deeper into what’s causing your allergy and how severe it is. An allergist can also develop a more advanced treatment plan, which may include prescription medicines and allergy shots (immunotherapy).

This content originally appeared on StoneCrest Family Physician's Blog.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Use special 1-micron or latex covers for all pillows and mattresses to keep dust mites from sneaking out of the bed (these are sold commonly as “hypoallergenic dustmite protectors”). They should zip, not just wrap or stretch around like a cover sheet.
  • Dust, sweep and vacuum at least once a week, including curtains, blinds and vents. Whenever possible, use HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters, which pick up even the smallest microns of dust and trap cat and dog dander. Change them four times a year.
  • Fill your home with air-filtering plants. Plants such as ficus, snake plants and gerbera daisies help clean your air by removing carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and other indoor air pollutants. Ask your local plant store for other suggestions.
  • If you have severe allergies, you may want to consider hardwood floors instead of carpet in your home.

Of course, there are several OTC and prescription medications available that can help ease symptoms, but our goal here is to help you avoid feeling like a leaky spigot in the first place. And the best way to do that is to treat allergies like anything you dread doing—put the work in on the front end to minimize the anguish later.

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Here's a list of some of the most common allergens and ways you can start to sidestep them:

  • Dust mites: Try using mite-proof bedding and replacing your curtains, carpets and rugs with blinds and hardwood flooring.
  • Pollen: Your allergies may get better or worse, depending on pollen counts in your area.
  • Pet dander: Consider installing a HEPA filter and keeping pets out of your bedroom.
  • Mold: To keep your house dry and mold-free, consider exhaust fans and a dehumidifier and fix any leaky pipes or other sources of excessive moisture.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.