Preventing allergic rhinitis 

The best way to prevent allergic rhinitis is to avoid the allergen that causes it.

However, 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 also sometimes be difficult to avoid coming into contact with pets, particularly if they belong to friends and family.

Below is some advice to help you avoid the most common allergens.

House dust mites

Dust mites are one of the biggest causes of allergies. They are microscopic insects that breed in household dust. Below are a number of ways that you can limit the amount of mites in your house:

  • consider buying air-permeable occlusive mattress and bedding covers (this type of bedding acts as a barrier to dust mites and their droppings)
  • choose wood or hard vinyl floor coverings instead of carpet
  • fit roller blinds that can be easily wiped clean
  • clean cushions, soft toys, curtains and upholstered furniture regularly – either 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 because it can remove more dust than ordinary vacuum cleaners
  • use a damp, clean cloth to wipe surfaces because dry dusting can spread the allergens further

Concentrate your efforts on controlling dust mites in the areas of your home where you spend most time, such as the bedroom and living room.

Pets

It is not pet fur that causes an allergic reaction, but exposure to flakes of their dead skin, saliva and dried urine. If you cannot permanently remove a pet from the house, you may find the following tips useful:

  • keep pets outside as much as possible or limit them to one room, preferably one without carpet
  • do not allow pets in bedrooms
  • wash pets at least once a fortnight
  • groom dogs regularly outside
  • regularly wash all bedding and soft furnishings your pet has been on

If you are visiting a friend or relative with a pet, ask them not to dust or vacuum on the day you are visiting because it will disturb allergens into the air. Taking an antihistamine medicine one hour before entering a pet-inhabited house can help to reduce your symptoms.

Pollen

Different plants and trees pollinate at different times of the year, so when you get allergic rhinitis will depend on what sort of pollen(s) you are allergic to.

Most people are affected during spring and summer months because this is when most trees and plants pollinate. To avoid exposure to pollen, you may find the following tips useful:

  • check weather reports for the pollen count and stay indoors when it is 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 mid-morning and early evening, when there is 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 
  • if you have a lawn, consider asking someone else to cut the grass for you 

Mould spores

Moulds can grow on any decaying matter, both in and outside the house. The moulds themselves aren't allergens but the spores they release are. Spores are released when there is a sudden rise in temperature in a moist environment, such as when central heating is turned on in a damp house, or wet clothes are dried next to a fireplace.

Here are some ways that you can prevent mould spores:

  • keep your home dry and well ventilated
  • when showering or cooking, open windows but keep internal doors closed to prevent damp air from spreading through the house and use extractor fans
  • do not dry clothes indoors, store clothes in damp cupboards or pack clothes too tightly in wardrobes
  • deal with any damp and condensation in your home

Page last reviewed: 19/03/2014

Next review due: 19/03/2016