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Allergens

Behind the sniffing, sneezing, and wheezing, allergic reactions are caused by the immune system overreacting to a substance that is registered as a threat.1

Although the symptoms of allergies may seem minor, they are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S., costing $18 billion annually and affecting 50 million people in the U.S. alone.2 Some allergies are seasonal, such as hay fever and some are chronic, such as sinusitis and asthma.3 Pollen, dust mites, and mold can trigger allergic reactions.

Planning for Pollen

Pollen allows stationary plants and foliage to share genetic information for stronger, more varied offspring. Insects, birds, animals, and wind transfer pollen. The amount of pollen in the air often depends on the weather and climate; mild winters mean an earlier allergy season; dry, windy weather increases the pollen count while rain and snow decrease it.4 Breathing pollen-dense air can cause: sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, itchy throat, and wheezing.5 Common plants that are especially irritating include: ragweed, sagebrush, pigweed, tumbleweed, and some trees, including birch, cedar, and oak.6

Plan for outdoor events, and pick times to be outdoors when the pollen count is moderate or low, to decrease exposure to pollen. Visit the National Allergy Bureau website to learn the pollen count in your area. In some cases, the best way to combat allergies is to stay inside if possible when the pollen count is especially high. When indoors, keeps doors and windows shut with the air conditioner running. HEPA filter attachments on the air conditioners in your home and car help trap pollen and alleviate allergy symptoms.7

If you are suffering from allergies, there are multiple ways to mitigate symptoms. Take a shower before bed to reduce pollen on your skin and hair, wash bedding once a week, limit contact with pets that have been outdoors, and avoid drying clothes on outdoor clotheslines.

Ditching Dust Mites

Dust mites live in our homes and feed on the skin we shed.8 They prefer humid, warm temperatures and reside in mattresses, furniture, and even stuffed toys. Dust mites and their carcasses can cause allergic reactions: sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose and throat, watery, itchy, and red eyes, postnasal drip, and cough.9

One of the most effective ways to mitigate symptoms is to reduce the existence of dust mites in the home. Dust mites cannot survive in environments with low temperatures and low humidity levels, so using a dehumidifier is an effective way to rid your home of dust mites.10 Vacuum, wipe, or brush surfaces in your home frequently to remove dust mite remains. Additionally, use fabric that is allergen-impermeable for pillows and mattresses to prevent dust mites from working their way into furniture.11 Wash sheets and blankets regularly and avoid wall-to-wall carpeting if possible.12 If you are looking for a chemical approach, there are several types of products including dust mite foggers, powders, and sprays that use insecticides to kill dust mites on contact. If symptoms persist, talk to your doctor. 

Mitigating Mold

Just as plants reproduce by emitting pollen, mold reproduces by emitting spores into the air. Mold spores can cause common allergic reactions.13

It is important to clean bathrooms, basements, and laundry areas regularly as mold grows in wet spaces quickly. In the kitchen, keep garbage cans clean, repair leaky faucets as soon as possible, and use an exhaust fan when cooking on the stove. Make sure the laundry area is dry; don’t leave damp clothes around, and use a fan to ventilate the area. In the bathroom, mold can easily grow on soap, tiles, cabinets, and shower curtains, so use a fan during and after showers and use a disinfectant to clean regularly.14 If you have mold growing in your home you should use a mold remediation product, any product that lists mold removal on the label or one that contains bleach, to kill the spores that have contaminated any surface. Just using a soap or disinfectant might clean the area of any stains, but will not be effective in killing the mold entirely.15


  1. Allergies. (2011, February 02). Retrieved May 04, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/tips/allergies.html
  2. Allergies. (2011, February 02). Retrieved May 04, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/tips/allergies.html
  3. Allergies. (2011, February 02). Retrieved May 04, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/tips/allergies.html
  4. How Weather Affects Allergy Forecast. (2017, May 4). Retrieved May 04, 2017, from https://www.pollen.com/allergy/allergy-season
  5. NAB Pollen Counts | AAAAI. (2011, February 2). Retrieved May 04, 2017, from http://www.aaaai.org/global/nab-pollen-counts?ipb=1
  6. AAFA. (2015, October). Pollen Allergy. Retrieved May 04, 2017, from http://www.aafa.org/page/pollen-allergy.aspx
  7. AAFA. (2015, October). Pollen Allergy. Retrieved May 04, 2017, from http://www.aafa.org/page/pollen-allergy.aspx
  8. AAFA. (2015, October). Dust Mite Allergy. Retrieved May 04, 2017, from http://www.aafa.org/page/dust-mite-allergy.aspx
  9. AAFA. (2015, October). Dust Mite Allergy. Retrieved May 04, 2017, from http://www.aafa.org/page/dust-mite-allergy.aspx
  10. AAFA. (2015, October). Dust Mite Allergy. Retrieved May 04, 2017, from http://www.aafa.org/page/dust-mite-allergy.aspx
  11. AAFA. (2015, October). Dust Mite Allergy . Retrieved May 04, 2017, from http://www.aafa.org/page/dust-mite-allergy.aspx
  12. AAFA. (2015, October). Dust Mite Allergy . Retrieved May 04, 2017, from http://www.aafa.org/page/dust-mite-allergy.aspx
  13. Mold Allergy. (2015, October). Retrieved May 04, 2017, from http://www.aafa.org/page/mold-allergy.aspx
  14. Mold Allergy. (2015, October). Retrieved May 04, 2017, from http://www.aafa.org/page/mold-allergy.aspx
  15. Bernarducci, E., Bilancieri, J., Cassin, T., Chase, B., Endres, M., Fisher, R.,… Zdanowski, D. (1992) The CSMA Consumer Products Handbook. Washington D.C., US. Chemical Specialties Manufacturers Association, Inc.

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