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Ditch the itch

Easing sneezing

Reduce triggers for allergies, asthma around the house


Summertime. A time for enjoying the great outdoors – camping, hiking, spending a day at the lake.

And a time for many people to have their allergies or asthma act up.

Doctors say the first line of defense against sniffling, sneezing, coughing, itching and wheezing is to avoid triggers.

But Dr. Pushpom James, a pediatric pulmonologist with Parkview Physicians Group, says people shouldn't feel defeated if they can't always do it.

"Some are very fortunate in avoiding triggers but those are people with very mild conditions or uncommon triggers," she says. "Most will need some form of medication, at least seasonally, depending on their symptoms."

Nonetheless, less exposure can mean less medicine, she says, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has developed a list of trigger-trapping techniques. From James and the institute, here's a sampling.

Dust mites. Mites thrive in humidity – so try to lower a house's humidity to below 50 percent through an air conditioner or a dehumidifier. (Remember to clean and replace air conditioner filters and use allergen-trapping types.) Besides vacuuming and dusting, limit dust-catchers including wall-to-wall carpets, drapes, decorative pillows and stuffed animals in the bedroom where sufferers spend the most uninterrupted time. To kill mites, wash bedding weekly in hot water (130 degrees) or in cold or warm water with detergent and bleach.

Indoor mold. Mold grows quickly in hot weather. Especially before and after a vacation, check around windows and doors and underneath sinks for small leaks and fix them. If you use a dehumidifier, empty the water pan frequently. If there's visible mold, scrub the area with a cleaner with bleach.

Pollen. Standard advice is to stay indoors with the windows closed in a climate-controlled environment. An alternative: check the pollen count and schedule outdoor activities for times when levels are lower, typically early morning and late afternoon; mobile phone apps can send alerts. Shower before bedtime to avoid bringing pollen into your bed. Consider wearing a surgical mask while working or playing outdoors.

Fragrances: Sunscreens, lotions, self-tanners or insect repellents and bite remedies can have fragrances that affect some people, James says. If a sudden sensitivity or rash occurs, look to these as possible culprits.