An allergy is a sensitivity to a substance that is normally harmless. Flowers, trees, a family pet, or dust are examples of things that can cause an allergy. Even foods like peanut butter, fish, and milk can cause an allergic reaction to people with sensitivities to them. A substance that triggers an allergy is called an allergen.
People can have different reactions to allergens, even when they are allergic to the same things. In rare cases, allergens can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis that can result in shock and can even be life-threatening. Allergens most likely to cause this dangerous response include some foods (such as peanuts and shellfish), drugs, insect stings, and latex. The reaction may begin almost immediately after contact with the substance.
If you are allergic to a certain food or to a pet, total avoidance is the best strategy. Unfortunately, many allergens are not easy to eliminate. Dust mites, pet dander, and mold are some common indoor allergens, and even if you keep your house immaculately clean, tiny particles of these substances are likely to remain. They can get into furniture, bedding, and soft toys. Here are some tips that can help you keep your house allergy-safe:
- Limit the number of carpets in your home. It is easier to remove allergens from smooth, hard floors such as tile or wood.
- Keep out of your basement. Most basements are damp, which encourages mold growth. A dehumidifier may help as well.
- Enclose your mattress in a vinyl cover to protect against dust mites.
- Remove all cloth drapes or curtains from your bedroom and replace them with blinds.
- Wash bed linens and pillows in water hotter than 130° F to kill dust mites.
- Use an air purifier with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate-arresting) filter to minimize the allergens floating in the air.