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

  1. Build a barrier
    Dust mites are one of the mostcommon allergens found in homes, according to LindaB. Ford, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Academyof Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. These microscopiccreatures live in beds, carpets, pillows, andupholstered furniture, feeding on our dead skin cells.But it's their droppings that somepeople are allergic to. "Getting ridof dust mites completely is diffi cult,so you need to put a barrier betweenyou and them," explains Goldsobel.Cover your mattress, box spring,comforter, and pillows with specialallergy cases. They're woven insuch a way that the dust-mite droppingscan't get through. (Look forAllerCare products, $10 to $100;
  2. Wash in hot water
    A newKorean study showed that washinglinens in 140°F water killed nearly alldust mites, whereas warm (104°F)or cold (86°F) water eliminated only10 percent or less of them. For fabricsthat can't tolerate hot water, usewarm or cold, but you'll need threerinses to effectively remove the dustmites. And since strong scents canaggravate allergies, use a fragrancefreedetergent like All Free Clear($6; at grocery stores). Pop non machine-washable items-like astuffed animal-into a Ziploc bagand leave in the freezer overnight.The lack of humidity kills mites.

  3. Make a clean sweep
    Vacuumall 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 particlesand don't spew them back into the air. Also make sureyour carpet cleaner contains tannic acid, a chemicalthat helps destroy dust mites.

  4. Admire nature from afar
    Tulips, daffodils, magnolias and hyacinths are beautiful signs of spring, butthey're also sources of pollen and mold spores. If youtake 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 comein after spending time outside, wipe down their fur sothey don't carry in mold or pollen. "Plus, studies showthat bathing pets at least twice a week can helpdecrease their dander," says Ford.