Allergies are diseases of the immune system that cause an overreaction to substances called “allergens,” according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). Symptoms can range from itchy eyes around cats or sneezing during the spring, to serious and even life-threatening repercussions that might result when one is allergic to a certain food or bee sting. Allergies may cause discomfort and inconvenience, and can worsen sinus problems, eczema and asthma, aafa said.

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, as many as 40 to 50 million Americans have some kind of allergic disease. Here are five general rules of thumb when it comes to your allergies:

Don’t mess with Mother Nature
Common seasonal allergens include ragweed, grass pollen and tree pollen, but these can be year-round if you live in a more temperate climate. Pollen from trees can be carried miles away from its original source, meaning you can still react to it if the source is not nearby. Winds can bring pollen to urban areas, which results in high levels on warm, breezy afternoons. Avoid leaving your clothes outside to dry during allergy season. Wear a mask if you mow your own lawn, or find someone else to do it for you. Keep the windows of your house and car closed. If you have to do a lot of work outdoors, do it after a heavy rainfall or a sudden drop in temperature.

Dry up the dampness
Mold and mildew are fungi and common sources of allergies in people who are sensitive to pollen and dust, or are constantly exposed to mold. For mold allergies, use a dehumidifier in your house to reduce the humidity level. Air with less moisture is not as appealing to common allergy triggers, like dust mites and mold. Vacuum often or remove as carpets and rugs. Fix leaks as soon as possible.

Alert the school
Food allergies can be fatal. The most common allergenic foods include peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, fish, shell fish, wheat and soy. According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, families should notify schools, camps and other attended programs of any and all allergies that their child has. They should provide the school with documentation and instructions as to how to handle an allergic reaction.

Educate your child
Make sure your child understand which foods he or she cannot have, and common items that may use those foods as ingredients. For example, you might not make your chocolate chip cookies with nuts, but a classmate’s mother might bake nuts in. Teach your son or daughter to ask if a certain food contains the allergenic ingredient. Also read the label yourself or show them what to look for. The labels should list if the product was made with milk ingredients or was manufactured in a factory that also produces peanut products.

Be prepared
If you are allergic to insects, be prepared to act if you are stung. Try to remove the stinger within 30 seconds by scraping the venom sac and stinger off with a credit card or fingernail. Someone with a severe insect allergy should have a prescription for epinephrine. EpiPens are a way to self-inject the epinephrine as soon as possible. Learn to recognize different nests and stay away from them. Do not wear perfume if you are outside, and don’t forget the insect repellent.