Contrary to popular belief, allergies can still persist well into the cold winter months and wreak havoc on the body. While there are little-to-no plant or tree pollens in the air, the problem often lies a lot closer to home than we think. Dust mites, animal dander, and cockroach droppings are three of the main causes for winter allergies, most often appearing in the form of sneezing, congestion, itchy and watery eyes, or a scratchy throat.
During the winter, the colder temperatures outdoors usually mean ramping up the heat indoors and reducing outdoor ventilation. The forced heat through the home circulates the dust particles that contain the problem-causing allergens and ultimately gives them no escape route other than for us to consistently breathe them in.
Over the counter antihistamines work well to control the symptoms that these allergens cause, but they will never permanently end the problem. If you’re tired of suffering from winter allergies, getting allergy tested and beginning allergy immunotherapy treatment is the only proven way of finding permanent relief.
In the meantime, here are some helpful tips and tricks for reducing your indoor allergen exposure:
- Keep humidity below 50 percent in the home to reduce dust mites.
- Remove wall-to-wall carpet, especially carpet over concrete. Animal dander and molds can become trapped in carpet and rugs, and dampness can accumulate between the concrete and pad/carpet, creating an environment for dust mites and mold.
- Minimize contact with pets, and keep them strictly out of the bedrooms to reduce the amount of allergen in the room.
- Bathe your pets weekly, if possible, to wash away dander and other allergens from their fur.
- Change your clothes, bathe and wash your hair after playing with your pet and before going to bed.
- Wash bedding in hot water (at least 130° F) once a week to reduce the dust mite load in the bedding.
- Encase pillows and mattresses in impermeable covers to reduce exposure to dust mites.
- Avoid down pillows and comforters, which form a nice habitat for dust mites and can, in and of themselves, be allergenic.
- Clean regularly, and use a damp mop for cleaning hardwood floors to avoid stirring up dust.
- Immediately wipe down wet surfaces, especially in the bathrooms and kitchen, to keep mold from growing
- Good insulation can help cut down on mold by reducing condensation on cold surfaces.
- If you are the one who is suffering during the winter months, have someone else in your house do the dusting and vacuuming. If you can, leave the house while the cleaning is being done.