Allergy Sufferers, Listen Up
Control Dust Mites, Pet Dander, Pollen at Home
By Jeanie Lerche Davis
Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson
Allergies can wreak havoc on the best of us. Grass and tree pollen irritate some 36 million people every year. Dust mites and pet dander plague us, too. Want to make your home an itch- and sneeze-free zone? The experts offer their insights.
During the tree pollen season, "there will be a sequence of little 'mini seasons' throughout the spring, as various trees pollinate," reports Jay Portnoy, MD, chief of allergy, asthma & immunology at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.
Spring rains may wash pollen from the air, but it's temporary relief, Portnoy tells WebMD. "Pollen counts actually spike prior to thunderstorms."
Indeed, allergy-proofing your home -- getting rid of outdoor and indoor allergens -- isn't easy, but it's well worth the effort. "It's the first and most important step in dealing with allergies, far better than any medication or shots," says Aidan Long, MD, head allergist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Once pollen gets inside your house, it becomes a perennial problem, Portnoy says. His advice:
But if dust mites and pet dander are your nemeses, vacuuming may not be a great idea, says Long. "Stirring up dust mites may be exactly the wrong thing to do. It's only the airborne allergens that are the big problem. When they're settled, they're not a problem."
Here's what to do:
As for pets, pushing Fluffy or Fido outdoors won't really solve the problem. "It's going to take months to get rid of the dander, even after the animal is outside," says Long.
Alternative suggestion: Keep the pet's bedding well-washed, and put filters on vents to cut down on fur blowing through the house. Also, try keeping the pet out of the bedroom. Dust mites love pet dander.
Published April 17, 2003.
Medically updated Jan. 27, 2005.
SOURCES: Jay Portnoy, MD, chief of allergy, asthma & immunology, Children's Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, Mo. Aidan Long, MD, director of allergy, Massachusetts General Hospital. WebMD Medical News: "Shake Out the Dog, Vacuum the Cat: It's Time for Spring Cleaning."
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