Preventing Allergic Reactions and Allergy Symptoms
The symptoms of nasal allergy can make your life miserable. They can get in the way of everything you want to do from getting enough rest at night to finding the energy even for routine tasks. But they don't have to hold that much power over you. There are things you can do to set yourself free.
Tracking Your Allergy Symptoms
The first step in gaining control over your allergies is to track not only what causes your allergy symptoms but also what keeps them at bay in order to learn what's triggering your allergy symptoms. You could be allergic to dust mites, mold spores, pollen, pet dander, or something else. It may take some time and a lot of research to identify all the substances to which you are allergic. You can also use a personal diary to monitor how your allergy medications or allergy shots work and to learn what avoidance strategies work for you.
Avoiding Allergy Triggers
Avoiding your allergens as much as possible makes sense. If you're not exposed to the substance to which you are allergic, you won't have an allergic reaction. Completely eliminating your exposure probably isn't practical or even possible, especially if you're allergic to widespread allergens, such as pollen or dust mites. You can, however, limit your exposure and reduce your allergy symptoms. Here are some actions you can take:
Stay indoors in high-allergen times. Keep windows closed. Check the daily pollen and mold counts for your community in the local newspaper, in weather reports, or on the Internet. If you must be outside, wear a face mask to filter out pollen and mold. They're available in most pharmacies.
Take an allergen-free vacation. Vacation in an area where there are fewer allergens or when they aren't at their peak.
Avoid allergen hot spots. If you're allergic to mold, stay away from areas likely to be moldy - basements, attics, summer cabins closed all winter, shady and leafy areas. If you have to work in such areas, wear a close-fitting face mask.
Dust-proof your home.
- Remove dust mite hideouts such as wall-to-wall carpeting, venetian blinds, down blankets, feather pillows, closets full of clothing, general clutter, and so-called "dust catchers." In the bedroom, remove items such as upholstered furniture, stuffed animals, carpeting, and draperies.
- Encase bedding and pillows in zippered, plastic, dust-mite proof encasings.
- Wash bedding weekly in hot water (greater than 130°).
- Vacuum only with a special high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter or a vacuum with a double-filter bag.
Managing cat and dog allergies. If you can't bear to part with a beloved pet, bathe and brush your pet weekly. Wear a face mask when cleaning or handling your pet or when cleaning kitty litter. Thoroughly clean the area afterward. Or, better yet, have someone else do these tasks.
Use air conditioners. Use home and auto air conditioners to keep out molds and pollens. Add special HEPA air filters to air conditioners to reduce allergens. You can also use individual HEPA cleaners in bedrooms. Follow manufacturer directions in cleaning filters.
Avoid exposure to chemicals, fumes, tobacco smoke, air pollution, etc. These irritants can trigger nasal congestion and make your allergic reaction worse.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Written by Karen Serrano, MD Emergency Medicine resident at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Reviewed by Lisa V. Suffian, MD
Instructor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Pulmonary Medicine at Saint Louis Children's Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine
Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, Saint Louis University
Board certified in Allergy and Immunology
Last updated June 2008