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Treating Environmental Allergies with High-Quality Care

At University of Utah Health, our allergy specialists are specially trained to perform thorough evaluations and create customized treatment plans for many types of allergies. Our multidisciplinary team is experienced with treating people of all ages with the most advanced treatments in allergy care.

Common Environmental Allergens

Environmental allergies are caused by indoor or outdoor allergens (substances that cause an allergic reaction). 

Indoor allergens include the following:

  • cats (dander, hair, saliva, and secretions);
  • dogs (dander, hair, saliva, and secretions);
  • cockroaches (saliva, droppings, or waste);
  • dust mites; and
  • mold.

Outdoor allergens include the following:

  • tree pollen,
  • grass pollen,
  • weed pollen, and
  • outdoor mold.

Environmental Allergy Symptoms

If you suffer from environmental allergies, you may experience the following symptoms.

  • Eyes — Itching, redness, tearing, and swelling
  • Ears — Pressure, popping, and itching
  • Nose — Itching, sneezing, nasal congestion, and runny nose
  • Throat — Itching, postnasal drip, and cough
  • Sinus — Facial pressure or pain
  • Lung — Coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath
  • Skin — Itching or rashes

Environmental Allergy Testing

We diagnose and identify environmental allergies using the following tests:

  • Skin prick test — These tests are the standard way we diagnose allergies. Skin prick tests are also called scratch tests or puncture tests. We will prick your skin with different allergens to identify which one you might be allergic to. The test takes about 30-45 minutes to perform. You will typically get your results on the same day as the test. Before undergoing this test, you will need to stop taking antihistamines (such as Zyrtec or Benadryl) by mouth for five to seven days. 
  • Blood test for IgE IgE is considered an allergy antibody. We don't typically use blood tests to diagnose allergies. However, a blood test can help confirm an allergy diagnosis, if needed.
  • Intradermal skin test — If your skin prick test is negative, we may proceed with an intradermal skin test. During this test, we will inject small amounts of diluted allergens on the surface of your skin. We use this test sparingly because it's not necessary for diagnosing environmental allergies in most cases.

Find an Allergist

What to Expect at Your First Appointment

Your allergist will work with you to identify your allergy symptoms and triggers. We will customize an allergy plan to improve your allergies with the goal of improving your quality of life. Please bring any records of past allergy tests or previous allergy medications with you. This will help us tailor your allergy plan more effectively.

We may conduct the following allergy tests during your first visit:

  • Skin prick test inhalant
  • Skin prick test food
  • Spirometry
  • Fractioned exhaled nitrogen oxide
  • Nasal endoscopy

Environmental Allergy Treatment

We treat environmental allergies using the following types of medications depending on the type and severity of your symptoms.

  • Antihistamines by mouth — These medications will counteract the effects of histamines, which are released during an allergic reaction. Histamines cause itching, redness, or swelling. These medications may include: cetirizine (Zyrtec), fexofenadine (Allegra), loratadine (Claritin), and more. Most of these are available over-the-counter.
  • Intranasal steroid nasal sprays — These medications will decrease upper airway inflammation and treat nasal allergies such as nasal congestion and postnasal drip. Examples of these medications include: fluticasone (Flonase), triamcinolone (Nasocort), mometasone (Nasonex), and flunisolide. Many of these nasal sprays are also offered over-the-counter.
  • Antihistamine nasal sprays — These nasal sprays will counteract the effects of histamines that cause nasal itching, sneezing, and nasal drainage. 
  • Antihistamine eye drops — These eye drops counteract the effects of histamines in your eyes that cause itching, swelling, redness, and tearing. Some of these eye drops are available over-the-counter while others may require a prescription.
  • Antileukotrienes — These medications will help reduce allergic symptoms that affect your eyes, nose, and lungs.
  • Albuterol inhaler — This inhaler will help relieve coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath.
  • Steroid inhaler — This inhaler will help decrease lower airway inflammation and treat allergic symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath.
  • Allergy shots These shots will turn down your allergies by desensitizing you and building up your tolerance to allergens (substances that cause allergic reactions).

How to Reduce & Prevent Environmental Allergies

The following tips will help reduce your exposure to environmental allergens.

For Pollen Allergies

  • Keep all windows and air conditioning vents closed during the pollen season especially during the day to reduce pollen from entering the home or car.
  • Wear glasses or hats while spending time outdoors.
  • Remove your shoes and clothing immediately after coming home to reduce any pollen transfer.
  • Wash your face and hands to rinse any accumulated pollen off.
  • Check pollen counts ( and limit time outside when levels are high

For Pet Allergies

  • Keep your pet out of your bedroom or at least keep them out of your bed.
  • Install HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters into your home to trap harmful particles such as pet dander. If you have cats, these may be particularly helpful.
  • Wash your hands after touching your pets and change your clothing before getting into bed.

For Dust Allergies

  • Buy dust mite protective encasements for your pillows, mattress, and box spring.
  • Wash your bedding in hot water every week.
  • Sweep, vacuum, and dust your home every week. (If necessary, wear a mask.)
  • Keep your home below 40 percent humidity to minimize the growth of dust mites.
  • Limit or eliminate stuffed animals on or near the bed. 

For Mold Allergies

  • If unhealthy levels of mold have accumulated in your home, you may want to consider mold remediation. This process entails safely disposing any moldy building materials such as drywall or insulation, including cleaning and disinfecting any personal items that may have had mold infestations.
  • Keep your home below 50 percent humidity.
  • Fix plumbing leaks and other sources of dampness or standing water. 

For Pest Allergies

  • Have your home exterminated by a professional.
  • Keep food and trash in covered containers.
  • Removing any standing water.
  • Seal all cracks in the walls, doors, and floors of your home.

How to Make an Appointment with Our Allergy Specialists

To schedule an appointment call 801-581-2955 or submit an appointment request. A referral is not required to meet with our allergy specialists. However, you may want to verify your coverage with your insurance carrier first as some carriers do require a referral from a primary care provider to be seen by a specialist.

Virtual Allergy Visits

Our allergy specialists also offer safe and easy virtual appointments. Our virtual care system allows us to evaluate and treat you via videoconferencing from the comfort of your home.

Learn How to Set Up a Virtual Visit


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