Allergen avoidance


IMPORTANT The information provided is of a general nature and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you think you may suffer from an allergic or other disease that requires attention, you should discuss it with your family doctor. The content of the information articles and all illustrations on this website remains the intellectual property of Dr Raymond Mullins and cannot be reproduced without written permission.

Why take medication when you can avoid the causes of allergy, asthma or hay fever?

Here are a few practical tips.

  1. Mold spores
    Molds reproduce spores that blow around like pollens. They break down organic matter (like leaf mulch) into compost. To reduce exposure:

  2. Keep the house well ventilated

  3. Use exhaust fans in the kitchen

  4. Get rid of obvious indoor mold and remove indoor pot-plants

  5. Empty water pans below refrigerators regularly

Grass, weed and tree pollens
Grass pollens blow long distances and are difficult to avoid. To reduce exposure:

  1. Wear sunglasses on windy days

  2. Drive your car with the windows up and air conditioner on

  3. Dry your bedding inside or in the dryer during Spring & Summer to avoid collecting pollen

  4. Stay inside on high pollen days, and keep the windows closed

  5. Wear a mask and sunglasses when you mow the lawns and have a shower afterwards to remove allergen

Animal allergens
The allergens in animals (animal danders) are derived from the oily secretions of the skin and sometimes saliva. That means that even if they do not shed hair, the allergen becomes attached to dust particles, walls, carpets, and soft furnishings. The amount of allergen shed will vary from animal to animal, but the actual allergen is the same. Furthermore, allergen persists in the environment for an estimated 12 months in published studies, even after the animal is removed. There are no hypoallergenic animals!

If you are already allergic, pets should never be in the bedroom, and are best banned from the house completely. Or not replaced if they pass on. Washing animals frequently will only partially reduce the amount of allergen that is shed into the environment.  To remove allergen from the environment requires you to hot wash bedding, clean curtains, wash down walls and hard surfaces with hot soapy water, steam clean carpets and clean out air-conditioning and heating ducts. If you are NOT yet allergic to animals, there is no reason to avoid having them. HEPA filters may have some benefit in reducing allergen levels.

Some animal allergies are dangerous
When animal allergy is severe, serious allergic reactions (such as acute asthma attacks or even anaphylaxis) can occur. The most common triggers are cats and horses. Even minor exposure can sometimes trigger symptoms. Affected people need to be very cautious about visiting houses where animals are kept, going to sleep-overs or riding in cars where animals have travelled. Taking an antihistamine before anticipated exposure may reduce the severity of mild allergic reactions, but is unlikely to prevent serious allergic reactions.

House dust mite
Dust mite lives off dead human and animal skin. The allergen is contained in its droppings or "poo". It likes warmth and humidity, and particularly the bed. Simple measures may reduce exposure.

  1. Vacuuming only removes a small amount of allergen from carpets, and removes almost no allergen from bedding.

  2. Hard flooring is better than carpet

  3. Hot wash linen at around 55 degrees centigrade to kill the mite

  4. Having cotton and synthetic bedding will make it easier to wash and dry the bedding

  5. Dust Mite covers for pillows and mattresses and doonas will allow moisture to pass, but not the mite droppings. These need to be removed and hot-washed every 6-8 weeks

  6. Recent research suggests that feather/down doonas (quilts) may not be as bad as previously thought. If the doona is old, consider having it "renovated" by taking it to a bedding shop and having the filling removed, cleaned and replaced.

  7. Minimise the number of soft toys. Sending the favourite toy to the freezer overnight will kill the mites. You can then wash it later to remove allergen.

Last reviewed 4 April 2020