Preventing and Coping with Allergies
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Preventing and Coping with Allergies

How to avoid setting off your allergies, from pollen to peanuts.


woman sneezing

Prevention is actually the best treatment for allergies. By knowing exactly what you're allergic to, you can avoid it if at all possible, sometimes greatly limiting your symptoms or reducing the severity of flare-ups. Following are some helpful tips for avoiding your exposure to various allergens:


Unfortunately, short of staying indoors when pollen counts are high -- and even that may not help -- there's no easy way to evade wind-borne pollen. The pollen granules are so small and light and produced in such huge quantities, they can be carried for long distances; clearing the offending plants from your own yard does little good. However, you can:

  • Avoid prolonged, close contact with pollens (as well as some molds) by avoiding working outside during spring and summer months.
  • Stay indoors during the time of the highest pollen counts, usually early in the morning on warm, dry, breezy days.
  • If you do have to work outside, wear a face mask designed to filter pollen and keep it from reaching your nasal passages.
  • Plan your vacation at the height of the expected pollinating period and choose a location where such exposure would be minimal, such as the seashore.
  • It may help to use an air conditioner inside your home and car. Special air filtering devices can be added to your home's heating and cooling systems. In addition, portable air-cleaning devices used in individual rooms can be helpful; ask your healthcare professional which type would be best. Vacuuming can actually worsen your symptoms unless the vacuum is equipped with a special HEPA filter.
  • Relocating to a place where the offending substance doesn't grow is not usually recommended simply because the person who is sensitive to a particular pollen or mold may subsequently develop allergies to new allergens after repeated exposure.


Mold allergens, too, can be difficult to avoid. But to reduce your exposure, you can:

  • Avoid places where allergens proliferate such as moist, shady areas outdoors, garden compost piles, greenhouses, mills, and grain fields or bins. Indoor hot spots include damp basements and closets, bathrooms, places where fresh food is stored, air conditioners, humidifiers, garbage pails, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and old foam rubber pillows.
  • Keep the lawn mowed and leaves raked, but have someone else do this for you or wear a tightly fitting dust mask to reduce your exposure.
  • Avoid walks through tall vegetation or travel in the country while crops are being harvested.
  • Ensure moldy places indoors, such as summer cabins, are aired out and cleaned before spending time there.
  • Use a dehumidifier to dry out the basement, but be sure to frequently remove and refresh the water collected in the machine to prevent mold growth there.
  • Open a window or use a fan after a warm or steamy shower to allow the humidity to escape.

Dust Mites and Animals

Dust mites are most effectively reduced by decreasing the amount of dust in your home. You can:

  • Dust proof, especially your bedroom, by removing wall-to-wall carpet, blinds, down-filled blankets, and feather pillows. Window shades don't trap dust; curtains can be used if they are washed periodically in hot water. Hardwood floors with washable throw rugs are easier to remove dust from than carpets. The fabric on upholstered furniture traps dust much more so than vinyl- or leather-covered upholstery. Washable slipcovers are a good alternative.
  • Bedding should be encased in zippered, plastic, airtight, and dust-proof covers.
  • Washable items should be washed frequently using water hotter than 130 degrees Fahrenheit, which kills dust mites.
  • Dust frequently, using a damp cloth.


If you simply can't bear to find another home for your pet, you can:

  • Have someone bathe your cat or dog weekly and brush it outdoors even more frequently.
  • Remove carpets and soft furnishings that trap animal dander and dried proteins in dust.
  • Keep the pets out of your bedroom.
  • Clean your house frequently, while wearing a face mask. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and a room air cleaner.

Foods and Other Ingested Substances

  • Ask your healthcare professional for the various names of different forms of the food that you should avoid.
  • Read food ingredient labels closely to check for the presence of your trigger food substances; they are often found in places you wouldn't suspect.
  • At a restaurant, don't hesitate to ask about ingredients of various dishes.
  • If you're allergic to a common medication such as penicillin, wear or carry something with this information, such as a medical alert bracelet or card.
  • If you have had anaphylactic reactions, you should wear a medical alert bracelet as well.
  • If you have severe allergies, be sure to be prepared to treat an inadvertent exposure at the first sign of a reaction with a syringe of epinephrine (EpiPen auto-injector), obtained by prescription from your healthcare professional.

Spotting Hidden Food Allergens

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network,, urges those with food allergies to be aware of these common hiding places for food allergens:


Delicatessen meat slicers are frequently used for both meat and cheese products.

Casein, a milk protein, is found in some brands of canned tuna fish, as well as in other non-dairy products. Casein also is used as a binder in some meat products.


Eggs may be used to create the foam or milk topping on specialty coffee drinks and are used in some bar drinks.

Some commercial brands of egg substitutes contain egg whites.

Most commercially processed cooked pastas contain egg or are processed on equipment shared with egg-containing pastas.


Arachis oil is peanut oil. African, Chinese, Indonesian, Mexican, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes often contain peanuts, or are contaminated with peanuts during preparation of these types of meals.

Foods sold in bakeries and ice cream shops often are in contact with peanuts.

From the National Women's Health Resource Center. Copyright 2003-2004 by the National Women's Health Resource Center, Inc. (NWHRC). All rights reserved. Reproducing this content in any form is prohibited without written permission. For more information, please contact