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6 ways to cut indoor allergens.

Sniffing and. sneezing aren't always signs of a cold--they may indicate allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 75 percent of the 60 million Americans with allergies have symptoms triggered by indoor allergens, including dust mites, animal dander (shed skin flakes), mold, and cockroach and mouse droppings.

Although your home may look spotless, allergens can lurk where you least expect them, says Paula J. Busse, MD, assistant professor of clinical immunology at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Indoor environmental control can make a difference. "Focus on the areas where allergens are most likely to accumulate," Dr. Busse says. She recommends these six measures:

1. Replace carpets. Carpers are home to tiny dust mites that can't be seen with the naked eye, so if you're allergic to dust mite droppings, lay hard flooring. If this isn't an option, high-filtration bags in your vacuum cleaner can help prevent dust escaping. However, Dr. Busse says the data on vacuum cleaners with HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters are not consistent: "Some studies suggest they're no better than regular models," she notes.

2. Dehumidify your home. Dust mites, cockroaches, and mold all thrive in dampness. "Keep humidity levels below 50 percent," says Dr. Busse. "Use the air condirioning to clean and dehumidify the air, and repair leaky faucets and pipes."

3. Wash bedding in hot water. The water in which you wash your bedding is the key to killing dust mites. "A water temperature of 140 degrees will ensure more effective eradication," says Dr. Busse. Choose bedding fabrics that can withstand this high temperature.

4. Replace your A/C filter. Most air conditioner filters need replacing every three months. "Ignore advertisements for expensive air duct cleaning," says Dr. Busse. "There's no evidence that this is an effective allergy measure."

5. Keep pests out. "Controlling cockroaches and mice, especially in large cities where people tend to live in apartments, is crucial," says Dr. Busse. "Both can gain access through the tiniest of cracks." Fill gaps around pipes and cracks in walls, and fit aluminum sealing strips at the bottom of doors. In addition, store food in lidded containers, clean up crumbs and dispose of trash each day.

6. Ban pets from the bedroom. If it's not possible to keep your pet outside, keep it out of your bedroom and other rooms where you spend a lot of time to limit your contact with animal dander. Regularly grooming and washing your pet also can help.

IS IT AN ALLERGY ... OR A COLD?

     SYMPTOM              ALLERGY                   COLD

Nasal discharge            Clear              Yellow after 3-5 days

Nostrils             Pale and swollen inside      Inflamed

Itchy eyes                  Yes                    Unusual

Aches, pains, fever         No                      Yes

Symptom duration          Persistent              Temporary

QUICK TIPS

Indoor plant soil can be a source of mold. If you want to keep your plants, cover the soil with a layer of shells or gravel (aquarium gravel is ideal).

Wear a protective mask and gloves when you're grooming or washing your pet, to help prevent you from coming into contact with allergens.

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Title Annotation:LUNG HEALTH
Publication:Focus on Healthy Aging
Date:Jan 1, 2009
Words:502
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