Many people suffer from allergies and asthma. In fact, in Texas, allergy sufferers must contend with year-round symptoms because of our mild climate. These seasonal or air-borne allergies are the ones that most people think about when they have “hay fever.” However, your home might actually be the cause of the majority of your allergy or asthmatic episodes.

This is especially true in younger children (preschoolers and toddlers) because they have not had enough exposure to many types of pollen, etc. in order to become sensitized. Therefore, people with asthma or allergies should try avoiding or eliminating indoor allergens and irritants.

The main sources of indoor allergens are dust mites, pets, mold, pollens and cockroaches. Irritants such as certain odors, chemicals and tobacco smoke can also cause asthmatic and allergic episodes.

Indoor Irritants:

Don’t allow anyone to smoke in your house. Smoking in another room is just as harmful as smoking in the same room. Also, don’t let anyone smoke in your car. Other important irritants include aerosol sprays, paints, household cleaners, strong soaps, perfumes, air fresheners and potpourri.

Dust Mites:

Wash all bedding, including mattress covers, pillows and comforters in hot water (at least 130 degrees) at least weekly. Enclose mattresses and pillows in allergen-proof encasings (ask your pediatrician to refer to an appropriate manufacturer). Keep clutter to a minimum. Buy only washable stuffed toys for children. Dust frequently. Consider buys a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter that collects dust and mite particles. Use a chemical spray that is applied directly to help get rid of the mites. Better yet, consider getting rid of carpeting altogether.

Pets:

The best avoidance is not to have a pet in the house at all. If you must have a household pet, keep them confined to one room or at least out of the bedrooms. Bathe dogs and cats at least weekly with dander-reducing shampoos.

Mold:

Keep humidity between 25 and 50 percent in your home. Run the air conditioner and/or use a dehumidifier. Keep windows closed during high-mold and high-pollen seasons (watching weather reports on TV is an easy way to determine what’s in the air). Keep houseplants, potpourri and dried flower arrangements out of the bedroom in particular.

Pollens:

Again, keep the windows closed. After being out all day, shower and shampoo hair and don’t bring your clothes into the bedroom. Leave your shoes at the door to avoid tracking in pollen. Use a lint roller on clothing before coming into the house.

Cockroaches:

Keep your kitchen clean and free of leftover food or food particles on the counters and floors. Wash and dry dirty dishes immediately after meals. Empty garbage pails daily. Don’t collect newspapers, paper bags or cardboard inside. If you find roaches, use appropriate insecticide control.

A note about air filtration:

Consider using pleated filters in your central heating and air conditioning system because they can be eight to 10 times as efficient as standard filters. WARNING: These must be changed Very frequently because can damage your system if they become too dirty. Room air filters such as HEPA filters are worth considering. However, controlling the sources of allergy-causing pollution is more important.

Brad Mercer, M.D., is located at 3200 Riverfront Drive, Ste. 103, Fort Worth, TX 76107. To make an appointment with him or one of his partners, call 817-336-3800. Like him on Facebook.