Environmental Allergy Avoidance

If it's not possible to completely avoid an allergen, there are things you can do to decrease your exposure. Here are some steps you can take to avoid contact with allergens and irritants so you can start enjoying life again.

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Dust Mites

Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and carpets. No matter how clean your house is, it’s impossible to completely get rid of dust mites. However, you can limit contact, especially in the bedroom, if you:

  • Put special dust-proof covers on pillows, mattresses and box springs.
  • Wash your bedding frequently, using hot water (at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Avoid bedding stuffed with foam rubber or kapok.
  • Limit the number of stuffed animals kept in bedrooms or put them in plastic containers.
  • Clean floors with a damp rag or mop, rather than dry-dusting or sweeping.


Grasses, trees and weeds produce pollens that travel through the air and are inhaled. They cause seasonal allergy symptoms and trigger asthma. Pollens from trees are higher in the spring, grasses in the summer and weeds in the fall. This may vary depending on weather conditions and where you live. If possible:

  • Keep windows closed during pollen season, especially during the day.
  • To avoid pollen, know which pollens you are sensitive to and then check pollen counts. In spring and summer, during tree and grass pollen season, levels are highest in the evening. In late summer and early fall, during ragweed pollen season, levels are highest in the morning.
  • Take a shower, wash your hair, and change clothing after working or playing outdoors.
  • Wear glasses or sunglasses when outdoors to minimize the amount of pollen getting into your eyes.
  • Don’t hang clothing outdoors to dry; pollen may cling to towels and sheets.


Allergic reactions to pets are caused by the animal’s dander. Short-haired pets are not any less likely to cause a reaction than long-haired animals.

If you have an allergy to animals, it’s best not to get a new pet. If you already have a pet you cannot live without, you should:

  • Keep your pet outdoors as much as possible, or restrict them to a few rooms in the house. At the very least, keep your pet outside  the bedroom.
  • Wash hands after petting your cat or dog.
  • Bathe your pet once a week to reduce dander.


Molds are found in outdoor air and can enter your home any time you open a door or window. Any house can develop a mold problem with the right conditions. Molds like to grow on wallboard, wood, or fabrics, but they will grow any place. They thrive in damp basements and closets, bathrooms (especially showers), places where fresh food is stored, refrigerator drip trays, house plants, air conditioners, humidifiers, garbage pails, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and old foam rubber pillows.

  • You can control mold in your home if you:
  • Clean bathrooms, kitchens, and basements regularly and keep them well aired.
  • Keep the humidity in your home low (between 30 and 50 percent)
  • Do not use humidifiers.


Cockroach droppings can not only trigger allergies but can trigger and bother asthma. Since cockroaches require food and moisture to survive, you can help reduce exposure by getting rid of sources of each. In some cases, you may need to hire an exterminator to get cockroaches under control. The following steps also should be taken:

  • Keep your kitchen clean and wash dishes promptly.
  • Make sure all food is stored in sealed containers.
  • Empty garbage and recycle bins frequently.
  • Avoid leaving food out.
  • Set roach traps.
  • Seal cracks in your home to prevent infestation.


  • Smoke – Avoid tobacco smoke and do not allow anyone to smoke in your home or car. If you smoke, try to quit. Do not use woodburning stoves or fireplaces.
  • Odors – Stay away from strong odors such as perfume, hair spray, paint, cooking exhaust, cleaning products and insecticides. Room air fresheners and electronic air cleaners also can trigger symptoms.
  • Cold air – Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf.
  • Colds and infections – Wash hands frequently.
  • Exhaust – If you have an attached garage, don’t start the car and let it run in there. Fumes can make their way into the home even when the garage door is open.