The best way to prevent allergic rhinitis is to avoid the allergen that causes it.
But this is not always easy. Allergens, such as dust mites, can be hard to spot and can breed in even the cleanest house.
It can be difficult to avoid contact with pets, particularly if they belong to friends and family.
How to avoid the most common allergens
House dust mites
Dust mites are one of the biggest causes of allergies. They're microscopic insects that breed in household dust.
To help limit the number of mites in your house:
- consider buying allergy-proof covers for mattresses, duvets and pillows
- choose wood or hard vinyl floor coverings instead of carpet
- fit roller blinds that are easy to wipe clean
- clean cushions, soft toys, curtains and upholstered furniture often by washing or vacuuming them
- use synthetic pillows and acrylic duvets instead of woollen blankets or feather bedding
- use a vacuum cleaner fitted with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to remove more dust
- use a clean damp cloth to wipe surfaces – dry dusting can spread allergens further
Concentrate your efforts on the areas of your home where you spend the most time, such as the bedroom and living room.
Pet fur does not cause an allergic reaction. But exposure to flakes of their dead skin, saliva and dried urine.
If you cannot remove a pet from the house, you can try to:
- keep pets outside as much as possible or limit them to 1 room, preferably one without carpet
- keep pets out of your bedroom
- wash pets at least once a fortnight
- groom dogs outside and often
- wash bedding and soft furnishings your pet has been on often
If you're visiting a friend or relative that has a pet, ask them not to dust or vacuum on the day you're visiting. This moves the allergens into the air.
Taking an antihistamine medicine 1 hour before you enter a house that has a pet can help reduce your symptoms.
Different plants and trees pollinate at different times of the year. When you get allergic rhinitis depends on what sort of pollens you're allergic to.
Most people are affected during the spring and summer months. This is when most trees and plants pollinate.
To avoid exposure to pollen:
- check weather reports for the pollen count and stay indoors when it's high
- avoid line-drying clothes and bedding when the pollen count is high
- wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen
- keep doors and windows shut during the mid-morning and early evening. This is when there's most pollen in the air
- shower, wash your hair and change your clothes after being outside
- avoid grassy areas, such as parks and fields, when possible
- consider asking someone else to cut the grass for you if you have a lawn
Moulds can grow on any decaying matter. Moulds are not allergens, but the spores they release are.
Moulds release spores when there's a sudden rise in temperature in a moist environment. For example, when central heating is turned on in a damp house or wet clothes are dried next to a fireplace.
To help prevent mould spores, you should:
- keep your home dry and well ventilated
- when showering or cooking, use extractor fans or open windows but keep internal doors closed. This stops damp air spreading through the house
- avoid drying clothes indoors, storing clothes in damp cupboards and packing clothes too tightly in wardrobes
- deal with any damp and condensation in your home
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE