Inside Ivy Tech: Nothing to sneeze at

Limiting exposure is key to minimizing environmental allergies


Sorry, Fluffy. Sorry, Sparky. It could be time for your marching orders if Jennifer Brink’s farewell advice is followed.

Don’t take it personally, however.

This recommendation from Ivy Tech Community College Northeast’s Respiratory Care program chair isn’t coming from a place of cat or dog animosity. To the contrary, it’s merely a suggestion to protect family members who suffer from pet-dander allergies.

“If you’re not going to get rid of your animals, which people rarely do, then at least keep them 100 percent out of the bedroom,” Brink says. “You don’t want to be inhaling Fluffy’s dander all night after Fluffy was laying on your pillow all day. If that’s the case, then parents shouldn’t wonder why little Johnny keeps having asthma attacks at 3 a.m.”

Beyond pet dander, research shows that the most common environmental allergens in North America include dust, mold, and tree and ragweed pollen. The tell-tale symptoms with these allergies include a combination of itchy, watery eyes; nasal congestion; reoccurring cough; and wheezing.

The first approach to safeguarding against any allergy is to look at causative factors, says Brink, a registered respiratory therapist and neonatal–pediatric specialist.

“If you know you’re allergic to something, then prevent your exposure to the allergen, but I know that separation is impossible sometimes,” she adds.

For many people, the knee-jerk reaction to treat allergy discomfort often involves a drive to the pharmacy for over-the-counter meds or the doctor’s office for prescription meds. Neither activity should be the go-to response, Brink says.

“We’re Americans. I know we want the quick fix, but with a lot of the medicines, you’re just treating the symptoms,” she says. “Unless you get away from the allergen, you’re going to continually suffer.”

So, by restricting Fluffy and Sparky’s access to roam the home freely, the result will usher in an improved indoor climate, where pets can be counted on to provide their allergy-prone owners with a much-deserved respite.

Pulling the environmental trigger

Pet dander

  • Wash dogs and cats weekly to reduce pet dander.
  • Consider allergen-blocker sprays and wipes for pets.
  • Prevent animals from visiting the bedrooms of allergy sufferers.
  • Use High Efficiency Particulate Air, or HEPA, filter vacuums with micro filter collection bags.

Tree and ragweed pollen

  • Stay indoors when pollen counts are high.
  • Leave shoes at the door to minimize tracking pollen throughout the home.
  • Avoid sleeping with bedroom windows open.
  • Replace air conditioner and furnace filters per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Stop hanging clothes and bed linens on clotheslines because they will attract pollen.


  • Investigate entryways, pipes, and window sills for stagnant water that can lead to mold growth.
  • Keep bathrooms clean and dry, especially bathtub, shower, and sink areas.
  • Purchase a dehumidifier to control excess moisture in the home, especially in basements.


  • Dust and vacuum the house routinely.
  • Shampoo carpets at least annually.
  • Choose mini-blinds instead of curtains and hardwood, tile, or vinyl flooring instead of carpet.
  • Have HVAC air ducts professionally cleaned annually.
  • Remove feather pillows and stuffed animals from beds.
  • Wash bed linens in hot water and use a hot temperature selection for the dryer to kill dust mites.

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