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PREVENTION NOTHING TO SNEEZE AT

Making your home inhospitable for allergens sounds like a daunting task; it's going to be you against millions of mold spores, dust mites and pollen. Fortunately, though, you're smarter than these minute microbes, and following these tips can help you keep allergies at bay.

Clear the air

A well-ventilated house and leak-free ductwork are first-line defenses against allergens bent on infiltrating your living space.

Use HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters in the air-conditioning system.

Maintain the humidity level in the house at about 50 percent. Mold likes moisture, and dust and pollen are easily stirred in dry air.

Keep windows closed when pollen counts are highest: in the early morning hours, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and during windy conditions.

Pollen and mold spores settle on clothing, so when you come in from the outdoors, remove your outer garments in the mudroom and take a shower.

Clean up clutter

The less stuff in your house, the fewer places for allergens to hang out. And, just as important, the easier it will be to clean thoroughly once a week.

Get rid of old rags, newspapers, clothes and other porous items.

Limit knickknacks, magazines and other dust catchers.

Focus on bedrooms especially, because you and allergens both spend more time there.

Clean the cleaning room

Your bathroom is for mold what your bedroom is for dust mites - heaven at home.

Inspect water pipes for leaks and make needed repairs immediately.

Regularly clean walls with a nontoxic cleaner.

Make sure that ventilation fans are routed to the outside, and run them for 30 minutes after a shower or bath.

Scrub away mold on pipes and fixtures.

Reduce dust generators

Consider pitching curtains, high-pile carpeting and upholstered furniture in the bedroom: All of these make cozy accommodations for allergens.

Best bet: washable throw rugs over wood, linoleum or tiled floors.

Damp-mop regularly, and clean walls and other surfaces.

If you must have carpeting, choose carpet with a short, tight pile, and vacuum weekly with a cleaner that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.

Outside factors

Make smart selections for the landscape. Avoid allergenic trees, bushes and flowers and other plants.

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