You Can Do It! Allergy Free Living

You Can Do It! Allergy Free Living
US $5.95
4th Edition
For the Very Finest in Allergy Relief and
Environmental Control Products
o It!
Just Look Inside
Start Taking Control
Learn what causes allergies
Learn how to control your environment for better living
Allergy Control Products Index
The following table is provided to help you determine
which environmental controls are appropriate for your
situation. A complete description of these products can be
found at
Allergy Products Index
Allergy Free
Dust Mite
Allergy Free
House Dust
Mold Test
Peak Flow
A/C and
A/C and
A/C and
Allergy Free
A/C and
For your convenience, this table is also available on the
Simply visit and click on
Allergy Solutions Index. This table will appear along with
active links to the appropriate products.
Self and Nonself
The heart of the immune system is the ability to distinguish
between self and nonself. Virtually every body cell carries
molecules that identify it as self. The body's immune defenses do not normally attack tissues that carry a self
marker. When immune defenders encounter cells or organisms carrying molecules that say "foreign," the immune
troops move quickly to eliminate the intruders. Any substance capable of triggering an immune response is called
an antigen. Antigens can be a virus, a bacterium, a fungus,
or a parasite. An antigen announces its foreignness by
means of characteristic shapes called epitopes, which protrude from its surface.
Keeping Out Foreigners
The immune system stockpiles a tremendous arsenal of
cells. In order to have room to match millions of possible
foreign invaders, just a few of each type of antibody are
stored. When an antigen appears, those matched cells multiply into a full-scale army. Antibodies belong to a family
of large molecules known as immunoglobulins. Immunoglobulins are proteins, made up of chains of amino acids.
Scientists have identified nine chemically distinct classes of
human immunoglobulins (Ig). Each type plays a different
role in the immune defense strategy. IgE, which normally
occurs only in trace amounts, is the villain in allergic reactions. Each IgE antibody is specific; one reacts against oak
pollen, another against ragweed.
OOPS! False Alarm
The first time an allergy-prone person is exposed to an
allergen, he or she makes large amounts of the corresponding IgE antibody. These IgE molecules attach to the surfaces of cells in the body. When an IgE antibody encounters its specific allergen, it signals the body to begin powerful chemical warfare. These chemicals include histamine,
heparin, eosinophils, and neutrophils.
Your Nose Knows these
Do You?
It’s really warfare, but to you, it may appear as one or more
of the following symptoms:
•Sneezing often accompanied by a runny or clogged nose
•Postnasal drip
•Itching eyes, nose, or throat
•Allergic shiners (dark circles under the eyes caused by
increased blood flow near the sinuses)
•The "allergic salute" (in a child, persistent upward rubbing of the nose that causes a crease mark on the nose)
•Watering eyes
•Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the membrane that lines
the eyelids, causing red-rimmed, swollen eyes, and crusting
of the eyelids).
First The Diagnosis
People with allergy symptoms, such as the runny nose of
allergic rhinitis, may at first suspect they have a cold--but the
"cold" lingers on. It is important to see a doctor about any
respiratory illness that lasts longer than a week or two. When
it appears that the symptoms are caused by an allergy, you
should see a physician who understands the diagnosis and
treatment of allergies. If your medical history indicates that
the symptoms recur at the same time each year, the physician
will work under the theory that a seasonal allergen (like pollen) is involved. Properly trained specialists recognize the
patterns of potential allergens common during local seasons
and the association between these patterns and symptoms.
The medical history suggests which allergens are the likely
culprits. The doctor also will examine the mucous membranes, which often appear swollen and pale or bluish in persons with allergic conditions.
Skin Tests
Doctors use skin tests to determine whether a patient has IgE
antibodies in the skin that react to a specific allergen. The
doctor uses diluted extracts from allergens such as dust mites,
pollens, or molds commonly found in the local area. The
extract of each kind of allergen is injected under the patient's
skin or is applied to a tiny scratch or puncture made on the
patient's arm or back. Skin tests are one way of measuring
the level of IgE antibody in a patient. With a positive reaction, a small, raised, reddened area (called a wheal) with a
surrounding flush (called a flare) will appear at the test site.
The size of the wheal can give the physician an important
diagnostic clue, but a positive reaction does not prove that a
particular pollen is the cause of a patient's symptoms. Although such a reaction indicates that IgE antibody to a specific allergen is present in the skin, respiratory symptoms do
not necessarily result.
Blood Tests
Although skin testing is the most sensitive and least costly
way to identify allergies in patients, some patients such as
those with widespread skin conditions like eczema should
not be tested using that method. There are other diagnostic
tests that use a blood sample from the patient to detect
levels of IgE antibody to a particular allergen. One such
blood test is called the RAST (radioallergosorbent test),
which can be performed when eczema is present or if a
patient has taken medications that interfere with skin testing.
Know Your Enemy
Half the Battle is Knowledge
Each spring, summer, and fall, tiny particles are released
from trees, weeds, and grasses. These particles, known as
pollen, hitch rides on currents of air. Although their mission is to fertilize parts of other plants, many never reach
their targets. Instead, they enter human noses and throats,
triggering a type of seasonal allergic rhinitis called pollen
allergy, which many people know as hay fever or rose fever
(depending on the season in which the symptoms occur).
Of all the things that can cause an allergy pollen is one of
the most widespread. People with pollen allergies often
develop sensitivities to other troublemakers that are present
all year, such as dust mites. Year-round airborne allergens
cause perennial allergic rhinitis, as distinguished from seasonal allergic rhinitis.
What is pollen?
Plants produce microscopic round or oval pollen grains to
reproduce. In some species, the plant uses the pollen from
its own flowers to fertilize itself. Other types must be crosspollinated; that is, pollen must be transferred from the
flower of one plant to that of another plant of the same
species. Insects do this job for certain flowering plants,
while other plants rely on wind transport. The
types of pollen that most commonly cause allergic reactions
are produced by the plain-looking plants (trees, grasses, and
weeds) that do not have showy flowers. These plants manufacture small, light, dry pollen granules that are custom-made
for wind transport.
Where is pollen most common?
Most allergenic pollen comes from plants that produce it in
huge quantities. A single ragweed plant can generate a million
grains of pollen a day. Samples of ragweed pollen have been
collected 400 miles out at sea and 2 miles high in the air. The
chemical makeup of pollen is the factor that determines
whether it is likely to cause hay fever. For example, pine tree
pollen is produced in large amounts by a common tree,
which would make it a good candidate for causing allergy.
The chemical composition of pine pollen, however, appears
to make it less allergenic than other basic types. Because pine
pollen is heavy, it tends to fall straight down and does not
scatter. Therefore, it rarely reaches human noses. Among
North American plants, weeds are the most prolific producers of allergenic pollen. Ragweed is the major culprit, but
others of importance are sagebrush, redroot pigweed,
lamb's quarters, Russian thistle (tumbleweed),
English plantain. Grasses and trees, too, are
important sources of allergenic pollens. Although more than 1,000 species of grass
grow in North America, only a few produce highly allergenic pollen. These include timothy grass, Kentucky bluegrass,
Johnson grass, Bermuda grass, redtop grass,
orchard grass, and sweet vernal grass. Trees that produce allergenic pollen include oak, ash, elm, hickory, pecan, box elder,
and mountain cedar. It is common to hear people say that
they are allergic to colorful or scented flowers. In fact, only
florists, gardeners, and others who have prolonged, close
contact with flowers are likely to become sensitized to pollen
from these plants. Most people have little contact with the
large, heavy, waxy pollen grains of many flowering plants
because this type of pollen is not carried by wind but by in-
When do plants make pollen?
One of the most obvious features of pollen allergy is its
seasonal nature--people experience it symptoms only when
the pollen grains to which they are allergic are in the air.
Each plant has a pollinating period that is more or less the
same from year to year. Exactly when a plant starts to pollinate seems to depend on the relative length of night and
day--and therefore on geographical location--rather than on
the weather. (On the other hand, weather conditions during
pollination can affect the amount of pollen produced and
distributed in a specific year.) Thus, the farther
north you go, the later the pollinating period and the later
the allergy season (the reverse is true south of the Equator).
A pollen count, which is familiar to many people from local
weather reports, is a measure of how much pollen is in the
air. This count represents the concentration of all the pollen (or of one particular type, like ragweed) in the air in a
certain area at a specific time. It is expressed in grains of
pollen per square meter of air collected over 24 hours. Pollen counts tend to be highest early in the morning on
warm, dry, breezy days and lowest during chilly, wet periods. Although a pollen count is an approximate and fluctuating measure, it is useful as a general guide for when it is
advisable to stay indoors and avoid contact with the pollen.
Household Dust
An allergy to dust found in houses is perhaps the most
common cause of perennial allergic rhinitis. House dust
allergy usually produces symptoms similar to pollen allergy.
What is house dust?
Rather than a single substance, house dust is a varied mixture of potentially allergenic materials. The particles seen
floating in a shaft of sunlight may contain fibers from different types of fabrics; cotton lint, feathers, and other
stuffing materials; bacteria; mold and fungus spores
(especially in damp areas); food particles; bits of
plants and insects; and other allergens peculiar
to an individual home. Dust also may contain
microscopic mites. These mites also live in
bedding, upholstered furniture, and carpets.
Ordinarily, they would thrive in summer and die in winter.
However, in a warm, humid house, they continue to thrive
even in the coldest months. Their waste-products, which
contain proteins, actually provoke the allergic reaction.
Waste-products of cockroaches are also an important cause
of allergy symptoms from household allergens, particularly
in some urban areas of the United States.
What are Dust Mites?
Dust mites are tiny animals you cannot see. Every home
has dust mites. They feed on skin flakes and are found in
mattresses, pillows, carpets, upholstered furniture, bedcovers, clothes, stuffed toys, and fabric or other fabric-covered
items. Body parts and feces of dust mites can trigger allergic
reactions in sensitive individuals. House dust mite allergy
is the major year-round allergy in the world.
Dogs, Cats, and Other
Many animals such as horses and goats can be allergycausing. But because they live so closely with us, household pets are the most common source of allergic reactions
to animals. Many people think that pet allergy is provoked
by the fur of cats and dogs. But researchers have found that
the major allergens are proteins secreted by oil glands in the
animals' skin and shed in dander as well as proteins in their
saliva, which sticks to the fur when the animal licks itself.
People have always said that when it comes to allergies, cats
are worse than dogs. We now know that it is because cats
lick themselves more than dogs, thereby spreading the aller-
In addition, cats may be held more and spend more time in
the house, close to humans. Urine is also a source of allergy-causing proteins. When the substance carrying the
proteins dries, the proteins can then float into the air.
Some rodents, such as guinea pigs and gerbils, have become
increasingly popular as household pets. They, too, can
cause allergic reactions in some people, as can mice and
rats. Urine is the major source of allergens from these animals. Allergies to animals can take two years or more to
develop and may not subside until six months or more after
ending contact with the animal. Carpet and furniture are a
reservoir for pet allergens, and the allergens can remain in
them for four to six weeks. In addition, these allergens can
stay in household air for months after the animal has been
removed. Therefore, it is wise for people with an animal
allergy to check with the landlord or previous owner to find
out if furry pets had lived previously on the premises.
Along with pollens from trees, grasses, and weeds, molds
are an important cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis. People
allergic to molds may have symptoms from spring to late
fall. The mold season often peaks from July to late summer
(reversed below the Equator). Unlike pollens, molds may
persist after the first killing frost. Some can grow at subfreezing temperatures, but most become dormant. Snow
cover lowers the outdoor mold count dramatically but does
not kill molds. After the spring thaw, molds thrive on the
vegetation that has been killed by the winter cold. In the
warmest areas of the United States, however, molds thrive
all year and can cause year-round (perennial) allergic problems. In addition, molds growing indoors can cause perennial allergic rhinitis even in the coldest climates.
What is mold?
There are thousands of types of molds and yeast, the two
groups of plants in the fungus family. Yeasts are single cells
that divide to form clusters. Molds consist of many cells that
grow as branching threads called hyphae. Although both
groups can probably cause allergic reactions, only a small
number of molds are widely recognized offenders. The seeds
or reproductive particles of fungi are called spores. They differ in size, shape, and color among species. Each spore that
germinates can give rise to new mold growth, which in turn
can produce millions of spores.
What is mold allergy?
When inhaled, microscopic fungal spores or, sometimes,
fragments of fungi may cause allergic rhinitis. Because they
are so small, mold spores may evade the protective mechanisms of the nose and upper respiratory tract to reach the
lungs. In a small number of people, symptoms of mold allergy may be brought on or worsened by eating certain foods,
such as cheeses, processed with fungi. Occasionally, mushrooms, dried fruits, and foods
containing yeast, soy sauce, or vinegar will
produce allergic symptoms. There is no
known relationship, however, between a respiratory allergy to the mold Penicillium and an allergy to the
drug penicillin, made from the mold.
Where do molds grow?
Molds can be found wherever there is moisture, oxygen, and
a source of the few other chemicals they need. In the fall they
grow on rotting logs and fallen leaves, especially in moist,
shady areas. In gardens, they can be found in compost piles
and on certain grasses and weeds. Some molds attach to
grains such as wheat, oats, barley, and corn, making farms,
grain bins, and silos likely places to find mold.
Hot spots of mold growth in the home include damp basements and closets, bathrooms (especially shower stalls),
places where fresh food is stored, refrigerator drip trays,
house plants, air conditioners, humidifiers, garbage pails,
mattresses, upholstered furniture, and old foam rubber pil11
are favorite places for molds to grow. Loggers, mill workers,
carpenters, furniture repairers, and upholsterers often work in
moldy environments.
Which molds are allergenic?
Like pollens, mold spores are airborne allergens that are
abundant, easily carried by air currents, and allergenic in their
chemical makeup. Found almost everywhere, mold spores in
some areas are so numerous they often outnumber the pollens in the air. Fortunately, however, only a few dozen different types are significant allergens. In general, Alternaria and
Cladosporium (Hormodendrum) are the molds most commonly found both indoors and outdoors throughout the
United States. Aspergillus, Penicillium, Helminthosporium,
Epicoccum, Fusarium, Mucor, Rhizopus, and Aureobasidium
(Pullularia) are also common.
Are there other mold-related disorders?
Fungi or microorganisms related to them may cause other
health problems similar to allergic diseases. Some kinds of
Aspergillus may cause several different illnesses, including
both infections and allergy. These fungi may lodge in the
airways or a distant part of the lung and grow until they form
a compact sphere known as a "fungus ball." In people with
lung damage or serious underlying illnesses, Aspergillus may
grasp the opportunity to invade the lungs or the whole body.
In some individuals, exposure to these fungi also can lead to
asthma or to a lung disease resembling severe inflammatory
asthma called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. This
latter condition, which occurs only in a minority of people
with asthma, is characterized by wheezing, low-grade fever,
and coughing up of brown-flecked masses or mucus plugs.
Skin testing, blood tests, X-rays, and examination of the sputum for fungi can help establish the diagnosis. Corticosteroid
drugs are usually effective in treating this reaction; immunotherapy (allergy shots) is not helpful.
Indoor Air Regulations and Mold
Standards or Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for airborne
concentrations of mold, or mold spores, have not been set.
Currently, there are no EPA regulations or standards for airborne mold contaminants.
Chemical Sensitivity
Synthetic chemicals are all around us. They're in the products
we use, in the clothes we wear, in the food we eat, in the air we
breathe, and the water we drink.. Because chemicals are everywhere in the environment, it's not possible to escape exposure.
No wonder, then, many people have become sensitized to the
chemicals around them. For some people this doesn’t pose a
serious problem. They may have what appears to be a minor
allergy to one or more chemicals. Chemical sensitivity is not an
allergic reaction because IgE is not present. Other people are
much more seriously affected. They may feel tired, and suffer
from mental confusion, breathing problems, sore muscles, and
a weakened immune system. Such people suffer from a condition referred to as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).
What is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity?
MCS is triggered by exposures to chemicals in the environment. Individuals with MCS can have symptoms from chemical
exposures at concentrations far below the levels tolerated by
most people. Symptoms occur in more than one organ system
in the body, such as the nervous system and the lungs. Exposure may be from the air, from food or water, or through skin
contact. The symptoms may look like an allergy because they
tend to come and go with exposures, though some people's
reactions may be delayed. As MCS gets worse, reactions become more severe and increasingly chronic, often affecting
more bodily functions. No single widely available medical test
can explain symptoms. In the early stages of MCS, repeat exposure to the substance or substances that caused the initial
health effects provokes a reaction. After a time, it takes less and
less exposure to this or related chemicals to cause symptoms.
As the body breaks down, an ever increasing number of chemicals, including some unrelated to the initial exposure, are found
to trigger a reaction. MCS affects the overall health and feeling
of well-being of those with the disorder. It typically impairs
many bodily functions including the nervous system and digestion. Each individual affected by MCS has a unique set of
health problems. A chemically sensitive person may also have
other preexisting health conditions.
Many affected people experience a number of symptoms, in
relation to their chemical exposures. MCS may result from a
single massive exposure to one or more toxic substance or
repeated exposures to low doses. People with MCS may become partially or totally disabled for several years or for life.
MCS is difficult for physicians to
define and diagnose. There is no
single set of symptoms which fit together as a syndrome, nor a
single diagnostic test for MCS. Instead, physicians should take
a complete patient history which includes environmental and
occupational exposures, and act as detectives in diagnosing this
problematic condition. After the onset of MCS, a person's
health generally continues to deteriorate. It may only begin to
improve once the chemical sensitivity condition is uncovered.
While a number of treatments may help improve the baseline
health status for some patients, at the present time, there is no
For people who find they cannot adequately avoid airborne
allergens, the symptoms often can be controlled with medications. Effective medications that can be prescribed by a physician include antihistamines and topical nasal steroids--either of
which can be used alone or in combination. Many effective
antihistamines and decongestants also are available without a
Antihistamines. As the name indicates, an antihistamine counters the effects of histamine, which is released by the mast cells
in the body's tissues and contributes to allergy symptoms. For
many years, antihistamines have proven useful in relieving
sneezing and itching in the nose, throat, and eyes, and in reducing nasal swelling and drainage. Many people who take antihistamines experience some distressing side effects: drowsiness
and loss of alertness and coordination. In children, such reactions can be misinterpreted as behavior problems.
During the last few years, however, antihistamines that
cause fewer of these side effects have become available by
prescription. These non-sedating antihistamines are as effective as other antihistamines in preventing histamineinduced symptoms, but do so without causing sleepiness.
Some of these non-sedating antihistamines, however, can
have serious side effects, particularly if they are taken with
certain other drugs. A patient should always let the doctor
know what other medications he/she is taking.
Topical nasal steroids. This medication should not be confused with anabolic steroids, which are sometimes used by
athletes to enlarge muscle mass and can have serious side
effects. Topical nasal steroids are anti-inflammatory drugs
that stop the allergic reaction. In addition to other beneficial actions, they reduce the number of mast cells in the
nose and reduce mucus secretion and nasal swelling. The
combination of antihistamines and nasal steroids is a very
effective way to treat allergic rhinitis, especially in people
with moderate or severe allergic rhinitis. Although topical
nasal steroids can have side effects, they are safe when used
at recommended doses. Some of the newer agents are even
safer than older ones.
Cromolyn sodium. Cromolyn sodium for allergic rhinitis is
a nasal spray that in some people helps to prevent allergic
reactions from starting. When administered as a nasal spray,
it can safely inhibit the release of chemicals like histamine
from the mast cell. It has few side effects when used as
directed, and significantly helps some patients with allergies.
Decongestants. Sometimes re-establishing drainage of the
nasal passages will help to relieve symptoms such as congestion, swelling, excess secretions, and discomfort in the
sinus areas that can be caused by nasal allergies. (These
sinus areas are hollow air spaces located within the bones
of the skull surrounding the nose.) The doctor may recommend using oral or nasal decongestants to reduce congestion along with an antihistamine to control allergic symptoms. Over-the-counter and prescription decongestant
nose drops and sprays, however, should not be used for
more than a few days. When used for longer periods, these
drugs can produce a “rebound effect” which can lead to
even more congestion and swelling of the nasal passages.
Immunotherapy, or a series of allergy shots, is the only
available treatment that has a chance of reducing the allergy
symptoms over a longer period of time. Patients receive
subcutaneous (under the skin) injections of increasing concentrations of the allergens) to which they are sensitive.
These injections reduce the amount of IgE antibodies in
the blood and cause the body to make a protective antibody
called IgG. Many patients with allergic rhinitis will have a
significant reduction in their symptoms and in their need
for medication within 12 months of starting immunotherapy. Patients who benefit from immunotherapy may continue it for three years and then consider stopping. Although many patients are able to stop the injections with
good, long-term results, some do get worse after immunotherapy is stopped. As better allergens for immunotherapy
are produced, this technique will become an even more
effective treatment.
Allergen Avoidance
Your First Line of Defense is at Home
Now that you understand exactly what causes an allergic
reaction, the actual nature of the reaction, and the common
allergens, its easy to put that knowledge to work for you.
Allergen control should start at home. Different allergens
require different approaches. Some strategies require little
to implement, others require an investment of time or
Complete avoidance of allergenic pollen or mold means
moving to a place where the offending substance does not
grow and where it is not present in the air. But even this
extreme solution may offer only temporary relief since a
person who is sensitive to a specific pollen or mold may
subsequently develop allergies to new allergens after repeated
exposure. For example, people allergic to ragweed may leave
their ragweed-ridden communities and relocate to areas where
ragweed does not grow, only to develop allergies to other
weeds or even to grasses or trees in their new surroundings.
Because relocating is not a reliable solution, allergy specialists
do not encourage this approach. There are other ways to evade
the offending pollen: remaining indoors in the morning, for
example, when the outdoor pollen levels are highest. Sunny,
windy days can be especially troublesome. If individuals with
pollen allergy must work outdoors, they can wear face masks
designed to filter pollen out of the air and keep it from reaching their nasal passages. As another approach, some people
take their vacations at the height of the expected pollinating
period and choose a location where such exposure would be
minimal. The seashore, for example, may be an effective retreat
for many with pollen allergies.
Air Conditioners and Passive Filters
When possible, an allergic person should use air conditioners
inside the home or in a car to help prevent pollen allergens
from entering. Various types of passive air-filtering devices
made with fiberglass or electrically charged media may help
reduce allergens produced in the home. These can be added to
the heating and cooling systems in your home and are considered passive because they contain no motors and require no
electricity. When evaluating filters to be placed on your system, compare “dust spot” and “dust arrestance” numbers. The
higher the number the better. But keep in mind that a filter
with a high allergen trapping ability will need to be replaced or
cleaned often. Windows should be kept closed at all times.
That “fresh air” you want to let in is filled with pollen and
mold spores. Laundry should not be hung outside to dry
where it will collect airborne pollen.
Active Filters
Portable devices that can be used in individual rooms are especially helpful in reducing allergens. Your Aquathin Allergy
Store Specialist can suggest which kind of filter is best for you.
The airflow should be sufficient to exchange the air in the
room five or six times per hour; therefore, the efficiency of the
filtering device is determined by the size of the room. Beware of exaggerated claims for appliances that cannot really
clean the air. Be wary of machines that are made of plastic
or have glue in their filters. These machines emit volatile
organic compounds and actually pollute the very air they
are supposed to clean. Make sure the unit has a powerful
motor. Very small air cleaners cannot remove dust and
pollen. Be sure to ask how many cubic feet of air per minute (CFM) are moved by the motor. The higher the number the better. Remember, no purifier can prevent viral or
bacterial diseases such as influenza, pneumonia, or tuberculosis. Some units contain ultraviolet lights as an additional
“sanitizing” feature. When used properly, ultraviolet light
can be a powerful sanitizing agent. Unfortunately, in these
machines, the air passing by the light does not linger long
enough to achieve true sanitizing. Buyers of electronic
precipitators should compare the machine’s ozone output
with federal standards. Ozone can irritate the nose and
airways of persons with allergies, especially those with
asthma, and can increase allergy symptoms. And finally, a
word about “HEPA” filters: HEPA is a standard of measurement. The acronym stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air. To be true HEPA, the filter must arrest 99.997%
of particles as small as .3 microns. “HEPA-like” is marketing term that lacks true meaning. A dehumidifier may be
helpful because dust mites require high humidity to live and
grow. Care should be taken to clean the unit frequently to
prevent mold growth. However, while low humidity may
reduce dust mite levels, it also may irritate the nasal passages and lungs of some people.
Mold allergens can be difficult to avoid, but some steps can
be taken to at reduce exposure. First, the allergy sufferer
should avoid those hot spots mentioned earlier where
molds tend to be concentrated. Remember, molds can be
found almost anywhere; they can grow on virtually any
substance, providing moisture is present. There are molds
that can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and foods. The lawn
should be mowed and leaves should be raked up, but someone other than the allergic person should do these chores.
If you must do such work yourself, wear a tightly fitting
particle mask to reduce exposure and resulting symptoms.
Travel in the country, especially on dry, windy days or while
crops are being harvested, should be avoided as should
walks through tall vegetation. A summer cabin closed up all
winter is probably full of molds and should be aired out
and cleaned before a mold-sensitive person stays there.
Around the home, a dehumidifier will help dry out the
basement, but the water extracted from the air must be
removed frequently to prevent mold growth in the machine.
Are mold counts helpful?
Similar to pollen counts, mold counts may suggest the types
and relative quantities of fungi present at a certain time and
place. For several reasons, however, these counts probably
cannot be used as a constant guide for daily activities. One
reason is that the number and types of spores actually present in the mold count may have changed considerably in
24 hours because weather and spore dispersal are directly
related. Many of the common allergenic molds are of the
dry spore type--they release their spores during dry, windy
weather. Other fungi need high humidity, fog, or dew to
release their spores. Although rain washes many larger
spores out of the air, it also causes some smaller spores to
be shot into the air. In addition to the effect of day-to-day
weather changes on mold counts, spore populations may
also differ between day and night. Day favors dispersal by
dry spore types and night favors wet spore types. There is
no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in
the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold
growth is to control moisture. If mold is a problem in your
home or school, you must clean up the mold and eliminate
sources of moisture. Fix the source of the water problem
or leak to prevent mold growth.
Reduce indoor humidity (to 30-60% ) to decrease mold
growth by: venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisturegenerating sources to the outside; using air conditioners
and dehumidifiers; increasing ventilation; and using exhaust
fans whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning. Clean
and dry any damp or wet building materials and furnishings
within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
Clean mold off hard surfaces with water and detergent, and
dry completely. Absorbent materials such as ceiling tiles,
that are moldy, may need to be replaced. Reduce the potential for condensation on cold surfaces by adding insulation.
In areas where there is a perpetual moisture problem, do
not install carpeting.
Dust and Dust Mite
Dust and dust mite-sensitive individuals, especially those with
allergies and asthma, can reduce some of their misery by creating a "dust-free" bedroom. Of all the rooms in your home,
the room you sleep in is the most important. Dust may contain molds, fibers, and dander from dogs, cats, and other
animals, as well as tiny dust mites. The routine cleaning necessary to maintain a dust-free bedroom also can help reduce
exposure to cockroaches, another important cause of asthma
in some allergic people. Most people cannot control dust
conditions under which they work or spend their daylight
hours. But everyone can, to a large extent, eliminate dust
from the bedroom. To create a dust-free bedroom, it is necessary to reduce the number of surfaces on which dust can
collect. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases suggests the following :
•Carpeting makes dust control impossible. Although shag
carpets are the worst type for the dust-sensitive person, all
carpets trap dust. Therefore, hardwood, tile, or linoleum
floors are preferred. Treating carpets with tannic acid eliminates some dust mite allergen, but tannic acid is not as effective as removing the carpet and must be repeatedly applied.
•Keep only one bed in the bedroom. Most important, encase box springs and mattress in a dust-proof or allergenproof cover. If choosing an encasement that does not use
a membrane for protection, look for a fabric with he
smallest pore size. Scrub bed springs outside the room. If
a second bed must be in the room, prepare it in the same
• Keep all animals with fur or feathers out of the room.
People allergic to dust mites are often allergic to cats,
dogs, and other animals.
• Use only washable materials on the bed. Sheets, blankets,
and other bedclothes should be washed frequently in
water that is a least 130ºF (54.4ºC). Lower temperatures
will not kill dust mites. If you set your hot water
temperature to a lower value (as is commly done to
prevent scalding), wash items at a commercial
establishement that used\s high wash temperatures. If
you must launder at home using lower temperatures, use
a benzyl benzoate additive , such as De-Mite.
• Keep furniture and furnishings to a minimum. Avoid
upholsterred furniture and cloth blinds. A wooden or
metal chair thatn can be scrubbed may be used in the
bedroom. If desired, hang plain, lighweight curtains on
the windows. If curtains are hung, treat in the same
manner as bedlinens (Ii.e., wash weekly in hot water )
• To prepare the room for a dust-sensitive person, clean
the room throughly and completely once a week. Clean
the floors, furniture, tops of doors, window frrames, sills,
etc. with a damp cloth or mop. Close the doors and
windows when finished. Cleaning should be done early
in the day to allow time for all dust to settle before the
dust-sensitive person is ready to occupy the room
Almost all higher order plants produce pollen. This means
controlling outdoor allergens is difficult but not impossible.
Fortunately, not all pollens lend themselves to easy dispersal. As discussed in the previous section on pollen, only
the light-weight powdery pollen is a widespread troublemaker. It is produced by plants that use the wind to spread
their pollen from plant to plant. The heavy sticky pollen
produced by plants that use insects to spread their pollen is
not usually a problem. With this in mind, take a look
around your lawn and garden. If you are starting a new landscape, select plants that produce
little powdery pollen. Weeds usually produce
their pollen as they mature, so it is important to
pull them as they sprout. Keep grass mowed
on a regular basis so that it does not form a
flower spike. This spike holds the allergy causing pollen. A
ground cover such as ivy may be used instead of grass. If
an allergy producing plant cannot be removed from your
existing landscaping, keep it pruned. Remove pollen bearing portions of the plant before they open and release the
allergen into the air.
Even though you control the pollen in your yard, you might
not be able to control the pollen in your neighbor’s yard.
On dry windy days, it is best to stay inside and keep the
windows closed. Do not hang laundry out to dry on windy
days, as the airborne pollen will be trapped in the fabric.
Household Cleaning Products
Many of the cleansers we use in our home contain toxic
chemicals and release unhealthy fumes into our homes.
The products utilize petroleum distillates or chlorine to
dissolve grease, dirt, and grime. Many are caustic and are
eye and skin irritants and can cause respiratory irritation if
inhaled. In addition, these products contain neuro22
toxins such as ethylene glycol n-hexyl ether,
butoxyethanol, and diethylene glycol monobutyl
ether. Many safer alternatives now exist to these
toxic cleaners. There are citrus based furniture
and general cleansers as well as soy based products. Both citrus and soy are two of the most powerful non
-toxic cleaners. Oxygen based bleaches are now available
to replace toxic chlorine bleaches. These products utilize
sodium percarbonate, a highly effective less toxic alternative to chlorine that releases no fumes as it cleans. If you
choose to use toxic products, open windows and run fans
to increase ventilation and wear a respirator for protection.
When selecting cleaning products, read the label thoroughly. Also beware of air “fresheners”. These products
use oils and fragrances to cover or mask household odors.
These products are also lung irritants and
should be avoided by those who have allergies, asthma, or chronic lung diseases. If
household odors are a problem, they should
be attacked from the source and not covered
up. Pet, cooking, and other household odors
can be controlled using the mineral zeolite. This mineral is
available in pebble or rock form as well as a powder. Zeolite works by absorbing odors as the source and keeps them
from becoming airborne.
Food Allergy
With a true food allergy, an individual’s immune system will
overreact to an ordinarily harmless food.. Food intolerance
is sometimes confused with food allergy. Food intolerance
refers to an abnormal physical response to a food or food
additive that is not an allergic reaction. The best way to
treat food allergy is to avoid the specific foods that trigger
the allergy. To avoid eating a "hidden" food allergen away
from home, always inquire about ingredients when eating
at restaurants or others’ homes.
Read food labels carefully and become familiar with technical or scientific names for foods. For example, milk may
not be listed as an ingredient; rather, the label may list casein (a milk protein), sodium caseinate or milk solids. Be
prepared for emergencies. Anaphylactic reactions caused by
food allergies can be potentially life-threatening. If you
have experienced an anaphylactic reaction to a food it must
be strictly avoided.. Be prepared for emergencies. Anaphylactic reactions can be potentially life-threatening. Those
who have experienced an anaphylactic reaction to a food
must strictly avoid that food.
The most effective method to control animal allergens in the home is to not allow an animal inside If
you do permanently remove an animal, it is important to clean the home (including floors and walls,
but especially carpets and upholstered furniture) thoroughly. Pet allergen levels are reported to stay in the home
for several months after the pet is removed even with
cleaning. Isolation methods to reduce animal allergen in the
home are suggested (e.g., keeping the animal in only one
area of the home, keeping the animal outside, or keeping
the allergic or asthmatic individual away from the animal)
but the effectiveness of these methods has not been
determined. To the contrary, several reports indicate that animal allergen is carried in the air and
on the resident’s clothing to all parts of the home,
even when the animal is isolated. In fact, animal allergen is
often detected in locations where no animals were housed.
In these situations, it is assumed that the allergen was carried in on people that have animals or on people that have
been around animals or people with animals. Often people
sensitive to animal allergens are advised to wash their pets
regularly. Recent research indicates that washing pets may
only provide temporary reductions in allergen levels.
There is no evidence that this short term reduction is effective in reducing symptoms and it has been suggested that
during the washing of the animal the sensitive individual
may be initially exposed to higher levels of allergen. Thus
the most effective method to control exposure to animal
allergens is to keep your home pet free. However, some
individuals may find isolation measures to be sufficiently
effective. Isolation measures include keeping pets out of
sleeping areas, keeping pets away from upholstered furniture, carpets, and stuffed toys,
keeping the pet outdoors as much as possible, and isolating sensitive individuals from
the pet as much as possible. In addition,
there are now products that denature or break down the
allergen-causing. These products use tannic acid, tea tree
oil, or other substances to render the allergen harmless.
The Alkaline Laboratories make products to apply where
the animal goes frequently. These treatments must be repeated every 30 to 60 days to be effective. However, the
treatments may provide sufficient relief to enable you to
keep the pet. The AllerPet company has a complete line of
products designed for application directly to the pet.
Whether you use isolation methods or denaturing agents or
a combination of both, it is important to keep pets away
from fabric-covered furniture, carpets and stuffed toys.
Time Out!
Time to take inventory. If necessary, you should
review what you have read so far. By now you
should see how and why allergen avoidance tactics
really do work. The whole idea behind investing
time, money, and energy in allergen avoidance is to
achieve some level of relief. Some of the tactics may
seem easy and some may seem extreme. However,
no tactic will work without your commitment to
controlling allergies by controlling your environment.
The EPA’s 3 Keys
To Cleaner Indoor Air
According to the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA), the three most common approaches to reducing indoor air pollution, in order of effectiveness, are:
• Source Control: Eliminate or control the sources;
• Ventilation: Dilute and exhaust pollutants through
outdoor air ventilation; and
• Air Cleaning: Remove pollutants through proven
air cleaning methods.
Of the three, the first approach – source control – is the
most effective. In addition to the steps we have already
covered, this also involves minimizing the use of products
and materials that cause indoor pollution. The second
approach – outdoor air ventilation – is also effective
and commonly employed. Ventilation methods include
installing an exhaust fan, increasing outdoor air flows in
mechanical ventilation systems, and opening windows , if
possible. However, during time of high pollen and mold
counts, windows should be kept closed. The third approach – air cleaning – is used to supplement source control and ventilation. Air filters, electronic particle air cleaners, and ionizers are often used to remove airborne particles, and gas adsorbing material is sometimes used to remove gaseous contaminants when source control and ven-
Pure Water and Medication
Untreated water can interfere with
By Dr. Harvi Lipshultz and Alfred J. Lipshultz reprinted by permission from Water Technology, April 1992
Any water treatment professional is familiar with the many
health risks related to consuming unpurified water. What
many people, even in the water industry do not yet know is
that tap water can interfere with the medications doctors
prescribe. Many prescription vials carry small, highly colored stickers that say “Take on any empty stomach” or
“Do not take with dairy products or antacids.” The pharmacist places these stickers on the vial because the components of food, milk or antacids will inhibit the absorption of the medicine and render it partially or totally
inactive. These same components are found in tap
water and can render some medication inactive. Antibiotics, specifically tetracycline, norflaxin and ciprofloxacin can
be affected in this way. Also, certain medications depend
upon a acidic (low pH) environment to be absorbed. The
stomach provides an acidic site of absorption, but if tap
water is basic (high pH), it might render the environment
neutral an inhibit the absorption and activity of certain
Fluoride Considerations
Another pharmacological reason not to use untreated tap
water to swallow medications is related to the fluoride content of the water. Many post-menopausal women suffer
from osteoporosis, which is a breakdown or thinning
of the bones. The treatment of this condition is hormonal and calcium supplements. However, if calcium
is consumed with tap water, the fluoride in the water
will render the calcium insoluble. Therefore, the calcium
might not be absorbed, and it will have no effect on bone
If tap water contains an excessive amount of fluorides, it may cause a condition known as endemic
dental flourosis, which appears as a dark brown spotting of the teeth. In certain cases, the teeth become chalky
in appearance. American Medical Association (AMA) has
issued several
printed statements about drinking water and human health.
AMA states, “Since drinking water frequently contributes
significantly to the human intake of a number of chemicals,
the physician should be aware of the consumption of water
to health authorities so that physicians can prescribe alternative water sources for hypertensives and
in relation to the patient’s conditions, For example, the
sodium content of drinking water in public systems is reported others who must restrict sodium intake.” All patients with any type of cardiovascular disease should benefit
from sodium-free water.
Another pharmacological interaction occurs between sodium and the medication lithium. Consuming excessive
amounts of sodium will increase the excretion of lithium
resulting in a decrease in the activity of lithium and an increase in the symptoms of bipolar affective disorders or
manic-depressive illnesses.
As people get older, their renal (kidney) functions decreases. Drinking chemical-laden water puts an additional
stress on an already stressed renal system. Evidence of this
is seen in people who are maintained on hemo-dialysis because of a kidney failure. They are advised not to consume
tap water with excessive ammonia levels, since ammonia
causes toxic uremic effects in this patient population.
AMA also attributes outbreaks of disease to the quality of
water. Microorganisims such as protozoa, fungi, and coliform bacteria have been found in tap water, usually resulting in an advisory to boil the water. These microorganisms are potentially dangerous to anyone who consumes them , and they pose a particular danger to people
with weakened immune systems, as in cases of chemotherapy, radiation and AIDS.
There are just some on the pharmacological reasons not to
drink unpurified tap water, including the possible inactivation of medications, aggravation of existing health problems or even the creation of new ones. Mounting evidence
of serious health risks such as these provide ample motivation for increasing number of people to investigate the water treatment option.
Other Things to
Think About
Humidifiers are commonly used in homes to relieve the
discomforts of dry nose, throat, lips, and skin. The moisture they add to dry air also helps alleviate common nuisances brought on by winter heating, such as static electricity, peeling wallpaper, and cracks in paint and furniture.
However, excess moisture encourages the growth of
mold and dust mites. Recent studies by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have
shown that ultrasonic and impeller (or "cool mist") humidifiers can disperse materials, such as microorganisms and
minerals, from their water tanks into indoor air. At present,
only limited information is available on the growth of microorganisms and the dispersal of microorganisms and
minerals by home humidifiers. Proper care and cleaning of
humidifiers is important for reducing potential exposures to microorganisms, such as bacteria and molds.
Microorganisms often grow in humidifiers which are
equipped with tanks containing standing water. Breathing
mist containing these pollutants has been implicated as
causing a certain type of inflammation of the lungs. The
federal government has not concluded that the dispersal of
minerals by home humidifiers poses a serious health risk.
However, do you really want these particles in your lungs?
Common sense tells us that using pure water with no mineral content (such as the water produced by the
Aquathin® patented reverse osmosis deionization
system) will reduce exposures to these materials. The
young, the elderly, and those people with lung diseases or
respiratory allergies may be particularly susceptible to certain types of airborne pollutants. However, if you make use
of the following recommendations potential for dispersal
of microorganisms and minerals from your humidifier
should be reduced.
Can I Use Tap Water in Humidifier?
Unfortunately, cool mist humidifiers are very efficient at
dispersing minerals from untreated tap water into the air. In
addition, some consumers are bothered by a "white dust"
that may appear on surfaces during use of these devices.
Most importantly, minerals in tap water may increase the
development of crusty deposits, or scale, in humidifiers.
Scale can be a breeding ground for microorganisms. Retarding the growth of scale is the most compelling reason
to find alternatives to tap water. For this reason, or if white
dust is a problem or you wish to minimize your exposure to
minerals in the tap water as a matter of prudence, you
should either:
•Use pure water, such as that produced by the Aquathin®
patented reverse osmosis deionization systems
•Use bottled water labeled "distilled." While distilled water
still contains some mineral content, it will likely contain
lower mineral content than untreated tap water.
•Consider using demineralization cartridges or filters if
supplied or recommended for use with your humidifier. Be
aware, however, that the ability of these devices to remove
minerals may vary widely. Watch for the appearance of
"white dust," which would indicate that minerals are not
being removed. Also, in areas of the country where the
mineral content in the tap water is high, using Aquathin®
purified water may be less expensive than cartridges, filters
or buying distilled water.
Even More About Humidifiers
Console humidifiers are encased in cabinets and designed
for floor use. Portable humidifiers are smaller and more
readily moved. Central humidifiers are built into heating
and air-conditioning systems, and humidify the whole
house. The two types of humidifiers which generally appear
to produce the most microorganisms and minerals are the
ultrasonic and impeller types discussed earlier.
Two additional types of humidifiers can allow for growth
of micro-organisms if they are equipped with a tank that holds
standing water. But, the following types generally disperse less,
if any, of pollutants into the air. These are:
• Evaporative, which transmit moisture into the air invisibly by using a fan to blow air through a moistened absorbent material, such as a belt, wick, or filter.
• Steam vaporizer, which create steam by heating water
with an electrical heating element or electrodes. "Warm
mist" humidifiers are a type of steam vaporizer humidifier in which the steam is cooled before exiting the machine.
Note: A steam vaporizer tested by the EPA did not disperse
measurable amounts of minerals; evaporative humidifiers have
not been tested by EPA for mineral dispersal.
Using Your Humidifier Properly
It is important to use a humidifier only when conditions require it, to use the correct moisture setting for existing conditions, and to clean it thoroughly.
• Empty the tank, wipe all surfaces dry, and refill the water in portable humidifiers daily to reduce any growth of
microorganisms; follow the manufacturer's instructions
for changing water in console humidifiers. Be sure you
unplug the unit from the electrical socket first.
• Use water with no mineral content to prevent the buildup of scale and the dispersal of minerals into the air.
• Clean portable humidifiers every third day. Empty the
tank and use a brush or other scrubber to clean it. Remove any scale, deposits, or film that has formed on the
sides of the tank or on interior surfaces, and wipe all
surfaces dry. Be smart, unplug the unit first.
• Follow the manufacturer's directions for the use of
cleaning products or disinfectants. If specific directions
are not provided, clean all surfaces coming in contact
with water with a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide. If
you use any cleaning or disinfecting agent, rinse the
tank thoroughly with several changes of distilled or
Aquathin® reverse osmosis deionization water to prevent dispersal of chemicals into the air during use.
Follow the manufacturer's directions on cleaning and
maintaining console and central (furnace mounted)
humidifiers. If the humidifier contains a tank, do not
allow water to stand in the tank for extended periods
of time, and keep the water clean.
• Keep steam vaporizer humidifiers out of the reach of
• Do not humidify the indoor environment above 50%.
Higher humidity levels may encourage mold and dust
mites. Hygrometers, available at local hardware stores,
may be used to measure humidity levels. Some humidifiers contain a built-in humidistat which may be
adjusted to the proper moisture level. If water
condenses on windows, walls, or pictures, either relocate the humidifier, lower its humidistat setting, or reduce its use.
• Do not permit the area around the humidifier to become damp or wet. If dampness occurs, turn the output volume of the humidifier down. If the humidifier
output volume cannot be adjusted, use the humidifier
intermittently. Do not allow absorbent materials, such
as carpeting, drapes, or table cloths, to become damp.
• Follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding the
use maintenance and replacement of any materials
supplied with the humidifier. Use appropriate materials as recommended by the product manufacturer.
• Clean the humidifier, as directed, at the end of the
humidifying season or when the unit is not expected
to be used often. Before storage, make sure all the
parts are dry. Dispose of all used demineralization
cartridges or filters. Store the unit in a dry location.
Before using the unit again, clean the unit and remove any dust on the outside.
There are humidifiers that include an ultraviolet light that
shines on the water reservoir. As noted previously, ultraviolet
light has a sanitizing effect, and the ultraviolet light is designed
to keep mold and bacteria from growing in the water. While
these units still must be cleaned periodically, if a humidifier
must be used frequently, this type of unit may be worth the
Roaches Can
Really Bug You
Researchers have recently discovered that the droppings or
body parts of cockroaches contain allergens. Cockroaches
are commonly found in crowded cities and all over the
southern United States. Cockroach allergens likely play a
significant role in asthma in many inner-city areas.
Actions You Can Take
An important key to pest management is to rid your home
of places for pests to hide and to keep them from food and
water. Pesticides are toxic for people as well as pests. Try
to use integrated pest management methods that present
the least risk. Some of these methods are:
• Do not leave out food or garbage.
• Store food in airtight containers.
• Clean all food crumbs or spilled liquids right away.
• Wash dishes as soon as you are done with them.
• Keep counters, sinks, tables and floors clean and
clear of clutter.
• Fix plumbing leaks and other moisture problems.
• Take stacks of boxes, newspapers, and other items
where cockroaches may hide out of your home.
• Make sure trash is properly stored in containers
with lids that close securely, and remove trash daily.
• Try using baits, or traps first before using pesticides.
• If sprays are used:
Limit the spray to the infested area.
Do not spray where you prepare or store food, or
where young children play, crawl, or sleep.
Carefully follow instructions on the label.
Make sure there is plenty of fresh air when you
spray, and keep the person with asthma out of the
room while spraying. After spraying, the
room should be thoroughly aired out.
Knowledge is Power
We started with the premise that knowledge is half the battle. By reading this booklet, you are on the way to Allergy
Free Living. Now you must put what you know to work.
Make an assessment of your current home. Remember to
focus on the room in which you sleep. That should be
your safe, “clean” room. It should always be ready to provide you with 8 hours of clean air while you sleep, or it can
serve as a refuge when symptoms seem unbearable
Don’t Be A Sucker!
Unfortunately, with growing consumer awareness of allergies, many enterprising and not so reputable people are
trying to make a buck off your suffering. But you are informed, you aren’t going to let them. Beware of the following marketing claims:
Its Hypoallergenic! The term hypoallergenic means that
the materials used to construct the product were not shown
to cause an allergic reaction in those persons tested. A
pillow marked hypoallergenic only means the material in
the pillow itself has not been shown to cause allergies. It
does not mean that the pillow will not harbor molds and
dust mites. Unless the pillow is made with an allergen
proof barrier cloth, it will certainly contain dust mites and
other allergens in a short period of time.
Its All Natural! There is nothing wrong with products
that are all natural. But use common sense and read the
label. Remember all natural does not always mean all good.
Arsenic and poison ivy are all natural.
Its HEPA filtered! When a sales person tells you a product is HEPA filtered, ask if the filtering system is sealed.
The vacuum cleaner market is a great example of this tactic.
Many companies are marketing “allergy” vacuums with
HEPA filters that actually make problems worse than better. This is because the units leak contaminants before they
And finally, your doctor should be your ally. Remember
they work for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. After
all, it is YOUR body.
Additional Allergy Free Living Resources
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
611 East Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
1-800-822-ASMA (doctor referrals)
Physician guidelines and patient information.
National Asthma Education Program
(301) 251-1222
Guidelines for patients, parents, teachers.
4744 Holly Avenue
Fairfax, VA 22030
(703) 691-3179
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892
Guide du Mieux-Etre
Dr. Jean-Marie Danze & Francine Delvaux
22 Rue Du Chalet
B 4920 Aywaille, Belgium
Tel 00-32- Fax 00-32-
Aquathin Allergy Store
This booklet is a compilation of information provided by
the Environmental Protection Agency, The National
Institutes of Health, and the National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases, as well as our experience with
allergen control. The information within is designed to
enhance your knowledge. Always consult with your
allergist to take proper action.
© 2002
CeeDeeKay, Inc.
All rights reserved
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