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Get tips on how to combat indoor allergens

March 29, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Springtime brings beautiful flowers, but it also brings with it a host of allergens. And for people who suffer from indoor allergies, tracking that pollen inside the house can make things worse. But there are a host of other things that can cause you to sneeze at home. Luckily, experts have a few tips for dealing with them.When Nancy Foreman opens her door, she's often greeted by unwanted visitors -- indoor allergens. She also has asthma. Dust mites and mold keep her sneezing and wheezing.

"I have watery eyes. Sometimes I will get a headache. I cannot talk," said Foreman.

Dr. Robert Wood is with the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.

"Indoor allergens are really present all year round, so it's not something you ever get a break from," said Dr. Wood.

Common indoor triggers include: dust mites, pet dander, mold and mildew. It may be impossible to avoid these allergens, but there are ways to minimize exposure to them.

"And for that reason, it's actually very helpful to know what you're allergic to," said Dr. Wood. "It's important to know whether it's really the dust mite or the mold because you might need to do completely different things to control one or the other."

Dust mites thrive in bedding and soft furnishings.

So, allergy experts suggest washing sheets and pillows in water that is at least 130 degrees.

"And then once you've washed them, you want to encase them with a zipper cover for your pillows and your mattress," said Angel Waldron, AAFA. "This is going to keep any dust mites from getting up into your airway as you sleep at night."

If you cannot avoid pet dander, try to minimize exposure and keep pets out of the bedroom. Also get rid of the carpet, since it holds animal allergens.

Mold tends to form in basements and bathrooms.

"If you already have a mold problem and it's visible, a bleach based solution is the best thing to get rid of that," said Waldron.

For many, minimized exposure combined with antihistamines often does the trick.

"But if someone is still suffering, it really would be worth seeing a specialist who can both identify what you're allergic to and give you a more specific treatment plan," said Dr. Wood.

Foreman uses a prescription nasal spray and an inhaler. Combined with the cleaning, they help her breathe easy.

"The only things I can do are try to stay away from the triggers," said Foreman.

How can you tell the difference between a common cold and indoor allergies? Dr. Wood says cold symptoms last a couple of weeks, at most -- while allergy symptoms will persist.