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A-plus ways to avoid air-borne irritants

If the very air around you seems to be your enemy, you probably suffer from allergies, but you can take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. It is the most common chronic disease, accounting for one out of every 40 doctor visits.

Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, is a seasonal condition if you're allergic to pollen, but it is a year-round problem if you're allergic to dust, mold, or animal dander.

Whenever these tiny air-borne allergens get into your system, they cause the lining of your nose and sinuses to swell. This can result in sneezing, stuff or runny nose, itching, coughing, and sore throat.

It may be hard to fight something so small you can't even see it, but it's not impossible. Here are some tips for keeping your allergies under control.

Use the sun to battle dust mites. Dust mites are tiny insects that live in bedding, carpets, and mattresses. They cat dead, sloughed-off human skin cells and give off waste material that can trigger allergic reactions. Whenever you change your sheets or vacuum, this waste material blows around in the air for about 30 minutes, and inhaling it can set off an episode of sniffling, sneezing, and coughing.

Sunlight may help you combat those pesky bugs. A Study in Australia found that leaving mite-infested rugs outside for four hours on a hot, sunny day killed 100 percent of mites and their eggs. This would probably work for bedding, curtains, and pillows as well.

Try tannic acid. For carpets and rugs you can't take outside, a tannic acid solution may be just what you need. Researchers found that one type of this solution, Allersearch ADS, reduced dust mites in carpet by up to 92 percent.

Control the mold. Try to keep your house as dry as possible to limit the growth of mold. Check areas that tend to be damp, like under sinks, and around toilets, tubs, and washing machines, and wipe these places down with bleach and water. Houseplants and aquariums can also harbor mold. If you must have houseplants, you can buy mold retardants from your local nursery.

Stay inside. If you're allergic to pollen, staving inside whenever pollen levels are high may help. Spring and fall are the seasons most likely to cause problems. Grass and tree pollen make spring a season of sniffling, and in the fall, ragweed starts the sneezing anew. Pollen levels also tend to be highest in the morning hours, so staying inside until afternoon may help.

Wear a mask. If you have to work in your yard, wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth, especially while cutting grass. It will block out at least some of the allergens. If you're allergic to dust, wear a mask whenever you have to dust or vacuum your house.

Shower up. After outdoor activities, take a quick shower to remove any pollen residue from your skin and hair. Your hair can harbor a lot of pollen, especially if it's long, so it's particularly important to shampoo before going to bed.

Close your windows. Make sure your bedroom windows are closed at night to keep allergens out and help you rest easier.

Use air-conditioning. Air-conditioners reduce the humidity and pollen levels in your house and allow you to keep your windows closed and still remain comfortable in hot weather.

Keep pets outside. Pet dander (dead skin cells) is a major cause of allergies. The fleas on your pet may also aggravate your hay fever. If you have furry or feathered pets that you can't bear to part with, try to keep them outside. If that's not possible, make sure they are bathed often, and use something to control the fleas.

Ditch the aerosols. Use pump-spray products whenever possible because aerosol sprays may irritate your airways.

Cover bedding. Enclosing pillows and mattresses in zippered vinyl coverings can help keep dust mites from collecting.

Unclutter your life. You may be emotionally attached to all those knickknacks, but the more items in your house that can collect dust, the worse your allergies may get. Venetian blinds and chandeliers are other household dust-collectors that you should eliminate from your home.


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