- Minimize your exposure. Dust mites live in bedding, upholstered furniture and carpeting; mold grows in damp places such as bathrooms and basements; and pets — well, if you have a dog or a cat, you should at least keep the animal out of rooms where you spend a lot of time, such as your bedroom.
And cockroaches. “They are a major allergen,” Lehach says, and are widely prevalent in urban settings — both housing and schools. A study of 831 houses across the country found that two-thirds of the homes had detectable levels of cockroach allergens, and higher levels were found in high-rise apartments and older, urban homes. (Nearly half of the homes had high enough levels of dust mite allergens to produce allergic reactions.)
So, vacuum frequently, wash bedding in hot water, remove mold with a bleach solution. Pay special attention to your bedroom, suggests the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, because you spend so many hours there. In addition to keeping a clean house, you might want to invest in a HEPA air filter, which removes particles from air passing through it.
- If you think you might have indoor allergies, there are plenty of over-the-counter products to help relieve the symptoms of allergies, including antihistamines and decongestants. You might also try steroid nasal sprays, one of which — Nasacort — was recently approved for nonprescription sales. Studies generally show that steroid nasal sprays work better than antihistamines for symptom relief. Some allergy sufferers swear by simple saline sprays and herbal remedies that contain butterbur or biminne.
- If your symptoms are ongoing and annoying enough to interfere with work, play or sleep, a visit to an allergy specialist might be in order. In a single visit, an allergist can find out what you’re allergic to with a simple skin test.
Once you’ve narrowed down the cause (or causes), you can target the problem more directly.
“Allergy shots contain a small amount of the very thing you’re allergic to,” Eghrari-Sabet says. “You become tolerant to it.” The treatment is delivered in a series of shots, typically monthly for up to five years. Allergists can also prescribe other types of medications. But the very first thing they’ll do is counsel you to minimize your exposure.
So you still have to clean your house.