Safe Home

Controlling the home environment plays a key role in managing a young child's allergies. The first and most obvious place is the kitchen. There is often a need to manage environmental allergens as well. Dust, animal danders, grass, trees and pollens can exacerbate eczema and hives. They can interfere with the detection of food related allergies, and can make a child just plain miserable with cold-like symptoms. Your allergist can test for a wide range of allergens to help you hone your approach.

1. Create a Safe Kitchen

Storing Food at Home.
It would be optimal to avoid bringing the allergy-causing food into your home. This is not always possible, especially in the case of a child with multiple allergies to common products. In this case, we suggest:

  • A special shelf. Store all allergy-safe products on one shelf- in the pantry and the refrigerator, if possible. This allows your child to safely help herself to foods, giving the child a sense of independence.* Be sure family, friends and babysitters know about this special shelf.
  • Stickers on Food Packages. Place pantry stickers (see products) on packaging indicating what is safe and not safe. Place stickers on the same spot (top right corner) on all boxes

Isolate Cooking Utensils and Supplies.
To avoid cross contamination of foods, designate allergy free cooking utensils and supplies to prepare safe foods. Studies show that hot, soapy water is adequate to break down an offensive allergen on surface areas, however some cookware may retain residue from previous meals, such as griddles, skillets and cutting boards. Identify these and purchase versions dedicated to preparing and cooking allergy-free foods.

Cook from scratch.
This minimizes the chance of an allergic reaction because you know exactly what is in the food. It offers you more control over your child's food allergies. There are many on-line resources for allergy-free foods. (See safe food for links) Experiment! You will be surprised how easy it is to substitute eggs or wheat. In time, you will learn what type of recipes can be adapted.*

Cook the same meal for everyone.
Having everyone eat the same food is less work for you and makes the allergic child feel “normal”. If cooking just one meal is not possible, have at least one other member eat the allergy-free meal, too. (probably you!)

Plan ahead.
Make several desserts and freeze them. This ensures that your child has a special treat to eat when everyone else is having one.

*portions of this section are excerpted from “Getting Started with Food Allergies”: A guide for Parents, by S. Allan Bock, M.D. and Anne Munoz-Furlong (FAAN)

2. Make Your Baby's World As Allergy Free As Can Be1

Furniture/Room Design

  • Wood or plastic chairs are best for the baby's room.
  • Do not use open book shelves.
  • Be aware that overhead mobiles collect dust.
  • Display washable stuffed animals. Most should be placed in a closed chest or closed closet.
  • Avoid too many wall hangings which collect dust. Washable “soft structures” or frames that are cleaned with a damp cloth are acceptable.
  • Use vertical blinds as ruffled curtains and Venetian blinds collect a lot of dust.
  • Place the crib away from air vents.
  • Remove carpets and cover the floor with linoleum or vinyl.


  • Remove feather pillows and comforters-replace with ones having a synthetic filling (dacrom or foam); the washable type is best in dust proof casing.
  • Baby bumpers should be simple; no ruffles or pleats.
  • Enclose the mattress top surfaces and sides in a plastic cover to prevent dust collection. (see resources)
  • Replace woolen blankets by nylon or Dacron quilts, or by cotton cellular ones and wash


  • Vacuum carpets daily or every other day. Avoid liquid spills if carpet pad is to stay free of mold. A hardwood floor with washable throw rug is preferable.
  • Thoroughly vacuum the mattress, the pillows, and around the base of the bed or divan.
  • Each day-“damp dust” the plastic mattress cover.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner with disposable paper bags. NOTE: If your child shares a bedroom-all other beds in the room must be treated similarly.
  • Change and wash pillow cases, sheets, and under-blankets each week.
  • Use light washable curtains and wash frequently.
  • Clean levelers or shutters each week with a damp cloth.
  • Discuss humidifier use with your doctor, if your baby is mold allergic.
  • A hepa filter (which can be placed under the crib) may help decrease airborne allergens.
  • Keep pets out of the baby's room as animal fur is a potential allergen.

Other Rooms

Particular attention should be directed toward removal of dust from upholstered furniture (which harbors the type of dust to which your child is sensitive.) Vacuum this furniture at least twice a week, especially the head rest, arms, and edges of the seats.

3. Animal Danders2

The skin sheddings (dander) or epidermal scales of animals are more potent in causing allergic reactions than the animal's fur or hair. In addition to skin sheddings and fur, allergic reactions to the saliva and urine of cat, dog, horse, guinea pig or hamster are also possible.

Ideally, there should be no animal pets in the household of a child allergic to animal dander. In cases of mild sensitivity the pet may be kept outside the house, especially out of the allergic individual's bedroom. When a pet is removed from the household remember that animal danders can persist for several months after the animal is gone. This is also important to keep in mind when moving into a new dwelling if the previous occupant kept pets.

Precautions for specific animal danders are listed below.

Cat pelts, fur, saliva and urine are amongst the most allergenically offensive of all the animal allergens. Even with a past history of tolerance to cats it is possible for an individual with an allergic tendency to develop sensitivity after constant exposure. This is also true for other animals.

Since the allergic reaction is usually directed against the skin sheddings and not the fur, it make little difference whether the dog has long or short hair. Also, small dogs can cause as much allergy as large dogs. In addition, there is no proof that any specific breed of dog is less likely to cause allergic reactions. Again, if the family is unwilling to give up a dog for the benefit of the allergic patient, the dog should be kept outside and must be kept out of the allergic patient's bedroom.

Sensitive persons must avoid not only horses and stables, but also persons and objects directly connected with the handling of horses. For example, contact with clothing worn for horseback riding may cause as much trouble as direct contact with horse. Horse hair used to be used as upholstery material and could also be found in carpet padding, stuffed furniture, and stuffed toys.

Cattle Hair, Hog Hair:
Some pads for placing under rugs or carpets are still made of cattle and hog hair.

Goat Hair:
Older upholstered furniture or automobile seats may contain goat hair as well as cattle hair or hog hair. Mohair is the name given to the fine wooly hair of the Angora goat. However, once processed, the fabrics are much less allergenic than the crude fur. In addition, oriental carpets often contain goat hair or mohair.

Rabbit Hair:
Most allergic reactions come from direct contact with live animals as pets or laboratory animals. As with other furs, processed rabbit fur in angora yarns or tanned and cured rabbit pelts such as fur coats are less allergenic.

Rats, mice, hamsters, gerbils and other pets are well known exciters of allergic problems. Mouse urine is an especially potent allergen for personnel who handle laboratory animals. It is reasonable to expect other pets' urine to be allergenic as well.

Feathers (down):
The most common sources of feather in the home are in pillows and also in bedding. House dust may contaminate a pillow, especially feather pillows--dust allergic patient should not use feather pillows. The best pillow for an allergic individual is made of Dacron.

1“House Dust Mite Control Measures” by Catherine G. Fuller, M.D., Board Certified Asthma and Allergy.

2“Animal Danders,” by Catherine G. Fuller, M.D., Board Certified Asthma and Allergy.