Even if you have never experienced an allergic reaction before, there is no way to ensure that you will not in the future. In fact, a person can develop allergies at any age. Some recent studies have demonstrated that exposure to certain allergens during early childhood may actually reduce the risk of developing all types of allergies in the future, but this research is still in the early stages. Other research suggests that childhood exposure to air pollution and secondhand smoke may dramatically increase the risk of developing allergies. In addition, breastfeeding an infant may decrease its risk of developing allergies in the future.
The chance of developing allergies to a specific allergen increases for people who spend much of their time in an environment containing possible allergens; for example, someone who works in an indoor plant shop may develop pollen allergies or someone who works in a kennel or pet shop may develop allergies to animal dander.
If you have had allergy symptoms in the past, the best thing to do is to determine what allergens you are most sensitive to and take measures to avoid them. Simple tests performed in the doctor's office can assess the common allergens to which you are sensitive (see "How do I know if I have allergies"). If it turns out you are extremely sensitive to cat dander, you should avoid prolonged exposure to cats in enclosed spaces. If you are allergic to spring pollen, you can minimize your exposure by keeping the windows in your home closed in the springtime. To lessen the effect of dust mites and other indoor allergens you can use an air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
Another possibility is taking medicine or getting allergy shots (see "What treatments are available for allergies").
In addition to limiting your exposure to known allergens, you can help lessen your allergy symptoms by avoiding other substances that tend to exacerbate allergic reactions. Try to avoid exposure to the following as much as possible:
-- Tobacco smoke
-- Air pollution
-- Cold temperatures
-- High humidity
-- Irritating fumes
-- Wood smoke
-- Aerosol sprays