Even though treatments can help alleviate allergy symptoms, patients will need to try to avoid exposure to specific allergens. In some cases this is not easy. Avoiding pollen in late spring and summer is virtually impossible, even the cleanest houses have fungal spores or dust mites.
If you have friends or family with pets, avoiding them might be difficult. Food allergies can be challenging to manage, because traces of allergens can appear in the most unlikely meals.
Reducing your exposure to dust mites
- Go for hard floor surfaces rather than carpets
- Replace your window curtains with roller blinds
- Regularly vacuum cushions, chairs, and soft toys. Where possible, wash them at a high temperature setting
- Do not use woolen blankets or feather pillows
- Instead of dry dusting, which can scatter allergens into the air, wipe surfaces with a damp cloth.
Preventing allergy to cats or dogs
If you are visiting a pet owner’s house, take an antihistamine before arriving.
It is not the pet itself but proteins found in its urine, saliva, flakes of dead skin or hair that can cause allergic reactions.
If you cannot avoid being in contact with a pet you are allergic to, see if you can come to an arrangement where it is not allowed into certain parts of the house, for example upstairs.
Do not allow the pet into your bedroom. Grooming a dog or cat outside regularly can help (try to get somebody to do this for you).
The pet’s bedding and soft toys should be washed at a high temperature setting regularly.
If you have to go into a pet owner’s house, taking an antihistamine medication beforehand may help.
Preventing mold spore allergy
- Test your house for mold
- Check the plumbing in your house. Leaks create damp areas which are ideal environments for molds
- You can probably clean small moldy areas yourself. An environmental service can help clear mold from difficult-to-get-to areas
- If mold is detected inside drywall, it must be cut out and replaced
- Make sure all hard surfaces are mold free
- Avoid having carpets in damp areas of your house
- Replace moldy tiles or carpets
- Make sure your bathrooms are well ventilated
- Dehumidifiers and air conditioners help keep the house dry. Make sure filters are changed regularly.
Preventing food allergies
Preventing allergic reactions affects children psychologically – scientists from the University of Padua, Italy, reported that children with food allergies suffer from anxiety and loneliness. Approximately 17% of kids with food allergies never attend peers’ parties, while 24% always take “safe” foods along with them.
Before considering buying and eating a particular food, read the list of ingredients on the label. A considerable number of prepared foods contains allergens, such as milk, eggs or peanuts.
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, US food manufacturers have been required by law since 2006 to list the ingredients in prepared foods.
They are also required to disclose whether their foods contain – fish, shellfish, wheat, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, milk or eggs – known as the top allergenic foods. They also have to list the food preservatives, sulphur dioxide and sulphites .
In August 2013, the U.S. FDA introduced a new rule defining the term “gluten free”. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) said that the new regulation will help people with celiac disease avoid gluten more effectively.
Simple hygiene – straightforward cleanliness measures can help reduce your risk of coming into contact with a food allergen. If you are allergic to peanuts, for example, washing your hands with soap and water will remove all or most traces of the allergen. Keeping working surfaces clean with a good household cleaner also helps.
It can be especially difficult to avoid food allergens when eating out. Explain clearly to the waiter (and the chef if you can) that you have a food allergy and how it important it is for you to avoid certain food(s).
Many waiters and chefs believe a small amount of allergen will not harm the allergic customer. A survey of 90 table-service restaurants in Brighton, England, found that 1 in 3 kitchens were not separating common food allergens (fish, nuts, milk, wheat, peanuts and eggs) from other foods.
Be careful when selecting items in bakeries or buffets, because it is likely that various kinds of foods have come into contact with one another.
A report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2008 suggested that food allergies may be delayed or prevented in high-risk infants if they are breastfed for four months or more.
Mother’s diet during pregnancy may affect baby’s allergy risk – Dr Gaëlle Boudry, of the INRA research institute in Rennes, France, and team identified a possible link between a mother’s diet during pregnancy and the risk of allergies in her offspring.
If the mother’s diet contained a group of PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids), such as those found in flaxseed, walnut oil or fish, the baby’s intestines developed differently, making him/her less likely to suffer from allergies.
Dr. Boudry says:
“There is intense research interest in maternal diet during pregnancy. In the western diet, the group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that we have shown to help gut function are actually disappearing our dietary intake of fish and nut oils is being replaced by corn oils which contain a different kind of fatty acid.
Our study identifies that a certain group of polyunsaturated fatty acids known as n-3PUFAs causes a change in how a baby’s gut develops, which in turn might change how the gut immune system develops. These changes are likely to reduce the risk of developing allergies in later life.”
Preventing pollen allergies (Hay fever)
There are a number of ways to minimize the impact of hay fever on your summer.
If you suffer from hay fever, there are some measures you can take to make your spring and/or summer months more tolerable.
With a certain amount of planning and effort, you can significantly limit your suffering, and maybe even avoid it completely.
Mark Dykewicz, M.D., professor of internal medicine and chief of allergy and clinical immunology at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, says:
“There are a number of simple steps you can take to help relieve symptoms and minimize your suffering when allergy season kicks into high gear. That’s good news for many of the millions of Americans who traditionally suffer every year from seasonal allergies.”
Dr. Dykewicz offers the following five tips to prevent or relive symptoms of pollen allergy:
- Use OTC antihistamines. For many patients they are very effective at reducing the classic symptoms of hay fever. Go for the more recent products which are less likely to cause drowsiness
- Keep all the doors and windows in your house closed. This helps prevent pollens and outdoor molds from entering
- Go out as little as possible in the morning or when pollen counts are high. On windy days it is better to stay in. Pollen counts tend to be higher between 5am and 10am
- Keep the windows of your car closed when you are traveling. Make sure the air filter is regularly serviced
- If you have been out, change clothes and have a shower when you are back home. Pollen can gather on clothes, skin and hair.
The following measures can also help reduce the severity and frequency of hay fever symptoms:
- If you have a lawn, try to get somebody else to mow it
- Stay away from very grassy areas, such as fields and parks
- When you are outside, wear wraparound sunglasses
- Avoid drying your clothes and sheets outside when pollen counts are high
- Always be aware of the pollen count in your area.
If you are also allergic to cats and dogs, stay away from pets when pollen levels are high. People who are allergic to pets may find their ragweed allergy symptoms get worse when exposed to dogs or cats.
If you are vulnerable to anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, make sure you have an “allergy action plan”.
Parents should inform their school, day care center, etc., regarding their child’s allergy and what to do in an anaphylactic emergency.
Tell your work colleagues and friends so that they can help you in an emergency.
You should always carry an epinephrine autoinjector, e.g. an EpiPen, and wear a medical alert bracelet. It is advisable to receive professional counseling on how to avoid triggers.