Updated 01 June 2017

Preventing allergies

Did you know that pollen levels are at their highest levels between 5 am and 10 am? Here's a practical guide to things you can do to protect yourself from allergens indoors and outdoors.


Depending on your specific allergies, some preventive maintenance at home could help control the environment, thereby reducing the risk of allergic reactions. The most important is to limit exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. The steps to reduce exposure to allergens include:

  • Using special mattress and pillow covers to control dust mites 
  • Frequent vacuuming and dusting to get rid of dust mites and other airborne allergens 
  • Using an air conditioner in your home and car and changing the filters often 
  • Getting rid of old bedding, toys, clothing and other items that may be carriers of dust and mould 
  • Keeping pets outdoors as much as possible and off the furniture 
  • Mopping uncarpeted surfaces regularly 
  • Removing overstuffed furniture and carpets to reduce dust mites

Preventing allergic reactions

Did you know that pollen levels are at their highest levels between 5 am and 10 am?

Basic things that can protect you from allergies:


When you're outdoors, pollen is likely to be your main adversary, so:

  • Close your car windows while driving. Put your car’s internal fan or air conditioning system on re-circulate, rather than drawing in new air from the outside.
  • Limit your outdoor activity between 5am and 10am, as pollen levels are at their highest during that time.
  • Stick to holidays in areas with low pollen counts, such as the seaside.
  • Delegate raking of leaves and mowing of lawns. Stay away from freshly cut grass.


Bedrooms that contain carpets, soft furnishings and drapes will harbour irritants, so:

  • Keep pets out of the bedroom.
  • Replace drapes, with shades or curtains that can be washed frequently.
  • Don't hang sheets or clothing outside to dry, as pollens can collect on them
  • Wash linen in very hot water and use your tumble drier’s hottest setting. This will kill mites.
  • Vacuum carpets regularly. With carpets in the room, less dust will be floating around.
  • Tiles or floor mats are easy to wash and must be kept clean.
  • Install a filter over bedroom air vents to prevent animal dander, dust, and moulds from being blown in from other parts of the house through the heating or air-conditioning ducts.
  • Clean, cool dry air is best while sleeping. Keep central air-conditioning running at night or use window air-conditioning units. If air-conditioning is not available, keep windows closed at night to avoid exposure to pollens.
  • Replace down pillows with buckwheat or foam ones.
  • Enclose pillows, mattresses and box springs in air-tight plastic or fabric casings to limit mite activity.
  • Vacuum floors and clean surfaces weekly.
  • Keep books and CDs in cabinets or drawers so that they don't collect dust.
  • Replace synthetic pillows every two years.

Living room

Houseplants and mould, dust as well as pets and dander are the main culprits. Keep the number of houseplants to a minimum, as they promote mould growth.

  • Wipe down all surfaces each week.
  • Store firewood outside and eliminate straw and jute from the home.
  • Avoid touching cut flowers.


Few people are willing to part with their pets, no matter how much they suffer as a result of animal dander, so:

  • Install an air filter in your home.
  • Keep your pet outside as much as possible.
  • Keep your pet out of the bedroom.
  • Brush your pet outside of the home to remove loose hair and other allergens. Better yet, ask someone else to do so. The same applies to the cat’s litter tray.
  • Clean or replace bedding or carpeting that is contaminated with animal dander.

Air-conditioning systems and air quality

Standing water is a magnet to allergens, and smoke is an irritant, so:

  • Air-conditioners can help control humidity, so they can limit the growth of mites and moulds, as well as eliminating spores from the air.
  • Avoid fireplaces, wood-burning stoves and tobacco smoke.
  • Install a dehumidifier to keep air dry and reduce mould growth. 

Read more: 

What are allergies? 

Risk factors for allergies 

Diagnosing allergies 

Revised and reviewed by Professor Sharon Kling, Allergologist, Clinical Head of the Paediatric Allergy Clinic at Tygerberg Hospital and Associate Professor of Paediatrics, University of Stellenbosch. March 2015.


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Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies. obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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