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Allergy Proof Your Home

When people start sniffling and sneezing,
they assume they have a cold. But often
they're actually allergic to dust mites, animal dander,
or mold. "Indoor allergies are associated with the
development of asthma, so it's important to identify
and treat them appropriately," says Alan Goldsobel,
clinical professor of allergies and immunology at Stanford
University School of Medicine. To make your home
a sniffle-free zone, you need to eliminate the allergens
that have moved in. Try these five easy ways.

  1. Build a barrier
    Dust mites are one of the most
    common allergens found in homes, according to Linda
    B. Ford, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Academy
    of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. These microscopic
    creatures live in beds, carpets, pillows, and
    upholstered furniture, feeding on our dead skin cells.
    But it's their droppings that some
    people are allergic to. "Getting rid
    of dust mites completely is diffi cult,
    so you need to put a barrier between
    you and them," explains Goldsobel.
    Cover your mattress, box spring,
    comforter, and pillows with special
    allergy cases. They're woven in
    such a way that the dust-mite droppings
    can't get through. (Look for
    AllerCare products, $10 to $100;
    bedbathandbeyond.com.)
  2. Wash in hot water
    A new
    Korean study showed that washing
    linens in 140°F water killed nearly all
    dust mites, whereas warm (104°F)
    or cold (86°F) water eliminated only
    10 percent or less of them. For fabrics
    that can't tolerate hot water, use
    warm or cold, but you'll need three
    rinses to effectively remove the dust
    mites. And since strong scents can
    aggravate allergies, use a fragrancefree
    detergent like All Free Clear
    ($6; at grocery stores). Pop non machine-washable items-like a
    stuffed animal-into a Ziploc bag
    and leave in the freezer overnight.
    The lack of humidity kills mites.
  3. Make a clean sweep
    Vacuum
    all floors weekly, especially carpets,
    which "are a reservoir of dust mites,
    mold, and animal dander," says Ford. HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air filter) vacuums trap particles
    and don't spew them back into the air. Also make sure
    your carpet cleaner contains tannic acid, a chemical
    that helps destroy dust mites.
  4. Admire nature from afar
    Tulips, daffodils, magnolias and hyacinths are beautiful signs of spring, but
    they're also sources of pollen and mold spores. If you
    take off your shoes each time you enter your house,
    you'll avoid tracking in any outdoor allergens.
  5. Manage your pets
    When your dogs or cats come
    in after spending time outside, wipe down their fur so
    they don't carry in mold or pollen. "Plus, studies show
    that bathing pets at least twice a week can help
    decrease their dander," says Ford.