Prevention of Indoor Allergies

The only way to prevent indoor allergy symptoms is to avoid contact with allergens. Many products are available to help reduce allergens in the home; however, it is important to get as much information as possible before buying these products. For example, there are several home air-filtering systems available, but the quality of these systems varies greatly and comparing one system with another can be challenging.

Allergy sufferers should shop around, do research (e.g., in the library, using reliable Internet sources), and ask their physician for advice before buying a product that claims to reduce or prevent indoor allergy symptoms.

Cigarette smoke contains toxic chemicals that can further aggravate allergies and people with allergies may be more sensitive to these toxins than people who do not have allergies. Smoking should not be allowed in the home.

The following tips may help reduce or prevent specific indoor allergies:

Dust mite allergens are everywhere, but the most prolonged contact occurs while sleeping. To help reduce exposure to dust mite allergens:

  • Avoid contact with feather or down pillows and comforters.
  • Wash sheets, pillow covers, and mattress pads weekly in hot water (130 degrees F) or use a special detergent that removes dust mite allergens.
  • Wash blankets, comforters, and bedspreads monthly during humid weather.
  • Use zippered pillow and mattress covers.
  • Use air conditioners or dehumidifiers to keep humidity in the home down.
  • Remove wall-to-wall carpeting from sleep areas.
  • Vacuum regularly with a high-quality vacuum and keep windows open while vacuuming.

If pet allergy symptoms are manageable and the risks are discussed with a physician, the decision to keep the pet even after an allergy diagnosis may be made. To help reduce pet allergy symptoms:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Do not allow the pet into sleep areas.
  • Use a high-quality HEPA air filter.
  • Vacuum frequently with a high-quality vacuum and keep windows open while vacuuming.
  • Wash pet bedding and dust frequently.
  • Minimize carpeting and upholstered furniture in the home.
  • Bathe the pet regularly (e.g., weekly).
  • Consider allergy shots (immunotherapy).

Sources of mold in the home can include damp basements, closets, bathrooms, houseplant soil, humidifiers and air conditioners, garbage pails, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and old pillows. To help reduce exposure to mold:

  • Use a dehumidifier in damp areas (follow the manufacturer's instructions for recommended cleaning).
  • Use air-conditioning during seasons of high humidity (central air conditioning with a high quality filter can help keep indoor air cleaner).
  • Change filters of home heating and cooling systems regularly (consult the manufacturer's instructions).
  • Use ventilation fans in bathrooms during and after showers.
  • Check basements for areas of seepage or leaks and have them repaired.
  • Remove fallen leaves from around the home and clean out rain gutters regularly.

Cockroaches live near food and moisture, usually in kitchens and bathrooms. The most important step in reducing cockroach allergens is to completely exterminate the living population of cockroaches in the home. Because cockroaches are very hardy insects, it is most effective to use professional exterminators. After the home has been treated, use traps such as poison bate or boric acid traps. Avoid chemical sprays as they can further irritate people with allergic sensitivities.

To help reduce exposure to cockroach allergens:

  • Clean countertops, tables, and floors thoroughly, especially at the end of each day.
  • Keep food and trash in tightly sealed containers and empty trash daily.
  • Do not leave pet food out over night.
  • Wipe up water on counters and in and around sinks at the end of each day.
  • Seal cracks around doors, windows, and openings around pipes and wiring to eliminate ways for cockroaches to enter. Repair leaking pipes.
  • Dust regularly.
  • Vacuum regularly with a high-quality vacuum and keep windows open while vacuuming.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 22 Oct 2008

Last Modified: 22 Sep 2015