Haydn's Wish

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Managing allergens

Your GP or specialist may have given your child medication to control the symptoms of allergy, which you should encourage your child to take as prescribed.

But another important part of allergy management is avoiding or minimising the things that are triggering the allergy.

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

When you know what allergens trigger your child's asthma, you can take positive steps to minimise their exposure to them. Here are some tips on how to reduce specific triggers:

Reducing exposure to food allergens

If your child is diagnosed with a food allergy, then your doctor should refer you to a dietician to help remove the food from your child's diet and environment if necessary.

Tell the teachers at your child's school, so they can help to ensure that they avoid food triggering an allergic reaction at school.

When shopping carefully check the list of ingredients on food labels and avoid those that contain your child's food triggers. By law, food manufacturers must highlight foods that contain allergens on the ingredients list, including:

  • crustaceans, for example prawns, crabs, lobster and crayfish
  • eggs
  • fish
  • peanuts
  • soybeans
  • milk
  • nuts e.g. almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio, cashew & macadamia nuts

For the full list see the food standard agency's website

Reducing allergies in the home

If your child has an indoor allergy, for instance to house dust mite or pets, then your GP will advise you to remove the allergen to minimise exposure.

You may find the following advice useful in minimising exposure to some common indoor allergens:

Dust mites[NHSW]

  • Put down wood or hard vinyl floor coverings instead of carpet
  • Instead of curtains, fit roller blinds which can be easily wiped clean
  • Remove cushions, soft toys and other upholstered furniture
  • Use synthetic pillows and acrylic duvets instead of woollen blankets or feather bedding
  • Wash bedding weekly using a hot wash of 55°C-60°C (131°F-140°F)
  • Use a vacuum cleaner that is fitted with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which can remove more dust than an ordinary vacuum cleaner
  • Wipe surfaces using a damp, clean cloth, as dry dusting can spread the allergens further
  • Dust inside cupboards as dust can settle on the objects inside

Pets[NHSW]

If your personal circumstances prevent you from permanently removing your pet from the house:

  • Keep pets outside as much as possible, or limit them to one room, preferably one without carpet
  • Don't allow pets in bedrooms, because their skin flakes can remain in the air for a long time
  • Wash pets at least once a fortnight (ideally, twice a week)
  • Install a HEPA air filter
  • If possible, remove carpets and replace them with wooden or hard vinyl floor coverings
  • Castration (removal of some or all of the male reproductive organs so that the animal is unable to breed) will reduce the production of allergens by male cats and dogs

Fungal moulds and spores[NHSW]

  • Keep your windows closed to prevent spores from coming in from the outside
  • Use a dehumidifier to reduce the moisture in your house
  • Install a HEPA air filter
  • Replacing carpets with wood or hard vinyl floor coverings should help reduce the amount and spread of spores
  • Strip wallpaper from damp walls
  • Get rid of old foam pillows and mattresses
  • Do not leave food out to decay
  • Regularly inspect high-risk areas for fungal contamination, such as your basement and around pipes, radiators, boilers and air conditioning units
  • Use a fungicide spray or cream to remove any contamination

Smoking and allergies[NHSW]

  • Cigarette smoke aggravates all allergic conditions and it is important to avoid smoking if you suffer from an allergy or are in the house of someone who does

References

[NHSW] NHS Wales: Prevention. Available here. Last accessed February 2015.