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Allergen Avoidance Overview

An essential component of any allergy treatment plan is to reduce your exposure to allergy-causing substances.

Once your allergist determines the specific substances that cause your allergy symptoms, you should then reduce your exposure to those allergens as much as possible. This is the most fundamental starting place, especially when symptoms are the result of allergy to materials present in the indoor environment.

In some cases, exposure can be eliminated or decreased to the point that no other treatment is necessary. In other cases exposure can be decreased only partially, making other types of treatment necessary. But even in those situations, less treatment will be required, and it will work better if you have first decreased exposure.

When thinking about decreasing exposure to allergens, it is useful to keep in mind the analogy between the level of an individual's "allergic threshold" and the capacity of a glass. If too much water is poured into the glass, it will overflow. This happens regardless of whether all of the water came from a single pitcher, or whether some water was poured in from each of several pitchers. If the total amount if water exceeds the capacity of the glass, the glass will overflow.

Similarly, if an individual is allergic to one or more substances, the sum total of exposures at a given time (the "total allergen load") determines whether or not the person's threshold will be exceeded and symptoms will result. The goal is therefore to get exposure below the threshold if possible.

Successful allergen avoidance does not necessarily mean lowering exposure to zero. It does, however, require making significant decreases in exposure, to get the level of allergen in your environment below your allergic threshold. The following information explains how you can lower your exposure to specific allergens: house dust mites, animal dander, and mold.

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