The New Allergy Zones

VIDEO: Why many people may misdiagnose the symptoms.
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The spring allergy season has sprung--and wrought plenty of discomfort for the approximately 35 million Americans with seasonal allergies. Pollen may not be all that's making your eyes water and nose run, though. Surprising allergens lurk in unexpected places in your home and make you feel even worse. In fact, the list of sneeze-inducing culprits is long: animal dander, mold, dust, and dust mites (tiny insects that thrive on organic matter, primarily flakes of skin), as well as pollen carried into the house from outside. But these irritants are manageable--and getting a handle on them will help reduce your symptoms. We went to four top experts for the unexpected sources of your sneezes and some room-by-room tips for eliminating them.

Living Room

Pet-owning visitors

Friends with pets usually have animal dander on their clothes. When they visit, they can deposit this irritant on upholstered furniture--even if they don't bring Fido or Felix with them.

Vacuum your couches and padded chairs after pet-owning pals sit on them. Prevent the allergens from spewing right back out of the machine by using one with a HEPA filter (which traps tiny particles so they can't escape the dust bag).

Couch pillows, throws, and stuffed toys

These items come into contact with skin, and that means tiny flakes that slough off and encourage dust mites. If your pet sits on, fetches, or plays with any of these, they're also covered with animal dander.

Tumble the items in the dryer on high for 10 to 15 minutes each week. (If this will damage the material, clean instead according to the manufacturer's instructions.)

Bedroom

Shelves

It's not just your novel's plot twists that are causing your eyes to tear up and your nose to run. You can also blame the dust that collects on books and other shelf-dwellers, including framed photographs and mementos. Books can also contribute to indoor mold problems, especially in humid conditions.

Keep shelves of all kinds, including bookshelves, away from the bed, or banish them from the bedroom entirely. Place trinkets behind glass doors so they don't collect dust. Clean surfaces and vacuum bedroom floors at least once a week.

Bed pillows

The warmth and humidity of your body encourage dust mites to grow in bed pillows, no matter what type of stuffing they have.

Either trade old pillows for new ones annually, or encase pillows in allergy-proof covers that you wash once or twice a month in hot water (follow the manufacturer's instructions). The most allergy-resistant, comfortable cases are made of tightly woven fabric that's impermeable to dust mites--and feels good to the touch. Check out the options at allergybuyersclub.com and nationalallergy.com.

Bathroom

The floor mat

Trapped moisture in the bath mat causes dust mites and mold to thrive.

Choose a washable mat and clean it weekly. After a shower or steamy bath, hang it up and open a window or run the fan.

Kitchen

The refrigerator door seal

As you transfer food in and out of the refrigerator, moisture, crumbs, and spills can build up in the crevices of the door seal and encourage mold to flourish there.

Wipe the seal with a mixture of mold-zapping bleach and water weekly; use a cotton swab to get into the grooves and clean them thoroughly.

Cooking steam

Steam wafts from pots and pans as you cook and settles in places you may not clean daily, causing mold to build up. Spots where dampness may land include walls, ceilings, cupboard doors, upper shelves, and areas hidden behind large appliances.

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More from Prevention:

9 Things That Make Allergies Worse

8 Ways To Outsmart Your Allergies

Environmental Control: The First Step in Managing Allergies

Allergy Proof Your Yard

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