People with existing allergies should avoid irritants or allergens. These triggers include:
- Pollen. This is the primary cause of allergic rhinitis.
- Dust mites, specifically mite feces, which are coated with enzymes that contain a powerful allergen. These are the primary allergens inside the home.
- Animal dander (flakes of skin) and hair from cats, house mice, and dogs. House mice are a significant source of allergens, particularly in urban children.
- Cockroaches are major asthma triggers and may reduce lung function even in people without a history of asthma.
- Some studies suggest that early exposure to some of these allergens, including dust mites and pets, may actually prevent allergies from developing in children.
Indoor Protection against Allergens
Controlling Pets. People who already have pets and are not allergic to them are probably at low risk for developing such allergies later on. When children are exposed to more than one dog or cat during their first year, they have a much lower risk for not only pet allergies but also seasonal allergies and asthma. (Pet exposure does not protect them from other allergens, notably dust mites and cockroaches).
For children who have an existing allergy to pets:
- If possible, pets should be given away or kept outside.
- If this isn't possible, they should at least be confined to carpet-free areas outside the bedroom. Cats harbor significant allergens, which can even be carried on clothing. Dogs usually present fewer problems.
- Washing animals once a week can reduce allergens. Dry shampoos, such as Allerpet, that remove allergens from skin and fur and are available for both cats and dogs and are easier to use than wet shampoos.
Review Date: 05/03/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.