Many people are allergic to substances or particles in the environment. These allergens which trigger a variety of reactions ranging from mild to severe are often difficult to avoid and control. People may respond to environmental allergens by sneezing or scratching, they could have watery itchy eyes or their eczema may flare. Others may develop a runny nose and need to clear their throat of mucous whilst some allergens can trigger asthma symptoms in susceptible people.
Allergens in the environment include mould, plants (pollens), animals (saliva, pet hair and dander), cockroaches and house dust mite, naming just a few. Smoke and other irritants such as exhaust and strong chemical smells can also trigger allergic reactions. It is important to be properly diagnosed by a doctor so you can then do your best to avoid or reduce exposure to your trigger allergen/s. Allergic disease is very much about management as for the majority, it cannot be cured. Some people can be desensitised to some allergens including a variety of pollens and dust mite. Discuss desensitisation with your general practitioner who may then refer you to an allergist/immunologist.
How to Minimise Indoor & Outdoor Allergens
Click on the link below for ideas on how to possibly reduce exposure to environmental allergens
Further Information on Allergen Minimisation
Tips for reducing pollen exposure:
- Check the pollen count each day (https://auspollen.edu.au)
- Stay indoors, when possible, particularly in the pollen season and on windy days
- Avoid going out just before, during or just after thunderstorms, particularly in spring and summer
- When outside, wear sunglasses
- Shower (including washing hair) after being exposed to high pollen outside
- Rinse eyes with water, artificial tears or saline eye drops, available over-the-counter
- Wash your hands before touching your eyes (will remove allergens such as pollen or pet dander)
- Do not mow grass and stay inside when it is being mown. If mowing is unavoidable, wear a mask and consider taking a non-drowsy antihistamine
- Keep windows closed at home and in the car. Use recirculating air conditioning in the car
- Do not picnic during the pollen season
- Try to plan holidays out of the pollen season, or holiday at the seaside
- If landscaping at home, research which plants are less likely to trigger allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis or asthma. If you are sensitive to plants in your garden, consider replacing them with others that don’t trigger allergic symptoms
- Dry bedding and clothing indoors, or in a tumble dryer
If you have allergic rhinitis due to rye grass allergy, you are at risk of thunderstorm asthma, whether you have experienced asthma before or not. Thunderstorm asthma is more common in spring and summer so try to reduce exposure to pollen during this time. Stay indoors just before, during and just after thunderstorms. Do not open doors or windows or go outside until the storm has passed. You should also take your allergic rhinitis medication as prescribed and carry asthma reliever medication. Further information is available at https://allergyfacts.org.au/allergy-anaphylaxis/allergic-asthma
Tips for reducing dust mite exposure:
- It’s important to remember that both the dust mites themselves - as well as their droppings/faeces/poo - can cause allergic reactions. You must not only reduce the number of dust mites in your home, but also remove the allergen they produce
- Wash sheets, pillowcases and other bedding weekly in hot water (more than 60⁰0C). This will kill dust mites and wash away the allergen they produce. If you cannot wash in hot water, use a commercial product containing tea tree or eucalyptus oils, formulated to kill dust mites in cold water
- If washing normally, hot tumble-drying items for ten minutes after they are dry will kill dust mites. Dry cleaning is not as effective - it will kill house dust mites but won't remove the allergen they produce
- Use dust mite resistant covers on mattresses, pillows and quilts. Wash these in hot water as recommended by the manufacturer
- Remove sheepskins and woollen underlays from the bedroom
- Remove soft toys from the bedroom if possible. Any soft toys that remain should be washed weekly using the same method used for sheets. (Freezing soft toys overnight kills dust mites, but it doesn’t remove the allergen)
- Dust weekly with a damp cloth
- Vacuum carpets weekly. Note that vacuuming increases the amount of dust mite allergen in the air for up to 20 minutes. Where possible, ask someone else to do the vacuuming and wait 20 minutes before re-entering the room. High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter vacuum cleaners may remove more allergen than other vacuum cleaners, however, they still temporarily increase the amount of dust mite allergen in the air.
- Reduce humidity – Where possible, have a dry and well-ventilated house, and adequate floor and wall insulation. Avoid using evaporative coolers (water cooled air conditioners) and unflued gas heaters, as these both release water into the air and can increase indoor dust mite and mould levels.
When renovating or building a home
- replace carpets with hard floors like floorboards, tiles, or linoleum.
- replace cloth curtains with roller blinds, or shutters that can be wiped clean.
- consider leather or vinyl lounges instead of cloth.
Tips for reducing pet dander exposure:
- Cats and dogs are a common source of allergen in the home. The allergens come from the sweat glands in all cats and salivary glands in all dogs. Although the amount of allergen released can vary between breeds, there are no hypoallergenic animals or breeds.
- As allergens are stuck to the hair and skin of pets, the allergens become airborne when the pet sheds their hair
- If pet dander is causing only mild symptoms, consider keeping the pet outside the bedroom and living area
- For severe symptoms not controlled by treatment, consider removing the pet from the home. It may take around 20 weeks for allergen levels to decrease after removal
Tips for reducing mould exposure:
- Remove visible mould (with diluted bleach or diluted vinegar)
- Ensure adequate ventilation (open windows to allow air flow)
- Dry or remove wet carpet
- Fix any water leaks
- Consider using a dehumidifier to reduce moisture in the air
- Remove indoor pot plants as they can promote mould growth
- Do not mow lawns or work with garden compost or mulch
Updated August 2023