Environmental control – the best treatment for allergies

Wang Yan

Global Courant

There are three basic treatment options for allergy sufferers:

1. Allergy Medication

2. Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots)

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3. Environmental control

What is Environmental Control?

Environmental control requires some work on your part — it’s not as easy as popping a pill or getting an injection — but it’s the most effective treatment for allergies. If you can control your environment and avoid your allergens, you won’t experience allergy symptoms. It’s that simple!

Environmental control can include frequent vacuuming with a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner, encasing your mattress and pillows in special allergy-free bedding, using an air purifier, wearing a mask, or placing a dehumidifier in your basement. Your environmental control plan will depend on the specific allergens you are allergic to.

What Causes Allergy Symptoms?

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Allergy symptoms appear after a sensitive person is exposed to allergens. The most common allergens are plant and animal proteins (although some people may be allergic to certain chemicals). Once an allergen finds its way into the body, it sets off a chemical chain reaction within the immune system of susceptible individuals. This chain reaction, which includes the release of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals, leads to allergy symptoms – sneezing, watery eyes, congestion, etc.

How do I discover my specific allergens?

Before you can create an environmental control plan, you need to know the substances that trigger your allergy symptoms.

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You should see an allergist or otolaryngologist for an allergy test. In the most common method of allergy testing, an allergy technician pricks the skin with a small needle to insert a small amount of the allergen. If the patient is allergic, the skin prick site will become red and swollen.

As another option that is more cost-effective and convenient, you can use MyAllergy Test in your own home. This easy-to-use kit allows you to take a blood sample (using a fingerstick lancet) and send it to a lab for allergy testing. MyAllergy Test shows if you are allergic to timothy grass, bermuda grass, mountain cedar, short ragweed, mold, milk, egg whites, wheat, cat dander and dust mites. If you want more extensive examination, you should make an appointment with an allergist.

Once you know your specific allergens, you can begin implementing environmental controls to prevent exposure to your allergens.

Dust Mite Allergy

Like villains in a microscopic sci-fi movie, dust mites are everywhere. They can live in cars, deep in carpet fibers and on furniture. Because dust mites feed on dead human skin, they tend to hang out where the sloughing skin collects: in the fibers of your bedding, mattress, and pillows. That’s why it’s vital to encase your bed in allergy-free bedding, otherwise known as dust mite encasements. These casings prevent dust mites from entering your bed. See the Allergy Free Bedding Buying Guide for more information.

You should also vacuum regularly with a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. Vacuuming alone won’t suck up all the dust mites, but it will take away their food. Use anti-allergenic carpet powders and sprays to kill dust mites in carpet. We also recommend using anti-allergenic detergents and additives to kill dust mites and denature allergens in your laundry, especially if you normally wash your laundry in cold water. (Water must be very hot to kill dust mites, but you can kill them by doing a cold water wash using anti-mite wash additive or Allergen Wash.)

If you have a dust mite allergy, you should monitor your relative humidity. Dust mites like warm, humid environments and they can’t thrive if you keep relative humidity levels below 50 percent. Keep an eye on your humidity with a humidity meter. If necessary, you can lower the humidity in your home with a dehumidifier.

Finally, while an air purifier won’t eliminate dust mites, it will remove excess dust in your home. To reduce dust mite populations, it’s important to keep your home free of dust and clutter. If possible, replace carpet with hardwood floors and low-pile area rugs.

Stuffed animals also harbor dust mites. You can kill dust mites on small items such as stuffed animals by placing them in the sun for several hours or by placing them in the freezer overnight. Or you can buy washable toys, such as Gund Stuffed Animals.

Mold Allergy

As with dust mites, it is impossible to get rid of all mold spores in the home. They are everywhere! However, with the help of environmental controls, you can significantly reduce the number of mold spores in your home, thereby reducing the frequency and severity of your allergy symptoms.

Like dust mites, mold needs a warm, moist environment to grow. Monitor the humidity in your home with a humidity meter and keep the humidity below 50 percent using a dehumidifier.

For protection while you sleep, the Allergy Armor allergy free bedding has a special antimicrobial finish that prevents mold growth.

Use M-1 Sure Cote Mold & Mildew Resistant Sealant to clean up mold around your home and prevent future growth. AllerMold and Vital Oxide are two additional household cleaners that are effective against mold but safe for your family and the environment.

Be careful when cleaning mold! If the growth is significant, you’ll want to wear a mask, along with gloves and goggles.

HEPA air purifiers and HEPA vacuum cleaners also capture mold spores and remove them from your environment.

Allergy to pet dander

We have already discussed several products that will help you prevent pet dander in your home; these products include allergy-free bedding, air purifiers and HEPA vacuum cleaners. For example, Allergy Armor Ultra bedding blocks animal dander from your bed. Other products made specifically for pet allergies include the Dyson DC17 Animal vacuum cleaner and the Austin Air Pet Machine air purifier.

If you have a pet, we also offer items to help keep your pet’s dander to a minimum, including the Pet Brush Vacuum Attachment and Ecology Works Pet Allergy Shampoo. Check out all Pet Allergy products for more suggestions.

Of course, if you are severely allergic to a particular animal, the best advice is to stay away from that animal. If you can’t avoid spending time with an allergenic animal, try not to touch your face and wash your hands (or better yet, shower) as soon as possible. And keep all pets out of your bedroom!

Allergy to pollen

The biggest problem with pollen allergy is that you can’t go outside and suck up all the pollen, nor can you put an air purifier in your backyard and expect it to have any effect on pollen levels. If you have a pollen allergy, it is best to wear a face mask when outdoors. Pay attention to your local pollen count and try to stay indoors when pollen counts are high. Once you’re in, shower as soon as possible.

Indoors you can use HEPA vacuum cleaners and air purifiers to collect pollen grains. Be aware that pollen enters your home every time a door or window is opened. If you want to get some fresh air without the pollen, place a Safeguard Window Filter on your window.

Sinus and nasal irrigation products also work well for people with pollen allergies because the saline washes away the pollen grains in the nasal passages. The SinuPulse Elite is the world’s most advanced nasal irrigation system, but a simple neti pot also works well.

Environmental control – the best treatment for allergies

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