A Guide to Wintertime Allergies

Most people think of allergies as either a springtime or autumn problem. And to be sure, the onset of both spring and fall is a taxing time for millions of allergy sufferers. Unfortunately, the winter months are likewise fraught with common
allergy triggers.

Indoor Invaders

So given the lack of pollen, ragweeds or other common allergy triggers, how is it possible that allergies can flare up in the cold winter months? The answer has to do with certain substances that lurk inside homes throughout the United States, namely dust mites and mold.

Dust mites aren’t inanimate clumps of dust; rather, they are actually extremely small bugs that can’t be spotted by the naked eye. Those who suffer allergy-related issues due to dust mites are not actually allergic to dust mites themselves; rather, they are allergic to both the waste products and remains of these minute creatures. It is estimated that roughly 20 million Americans have dust mite allergies.

Mold is a subject that is almost as unpleasant to discuss as dust mites. Commonly found in basements, bathrooms and other damp areas with high humidity, molds are usually too small to see without a microscope. The spores released by household molds are often the source of wintertime allergy woes.

Pet Problems

A third trigger of winter allergies is pet dander. As with dust mites, the problem isn’t with pet dander itself; instead, the issue is a troublesome protein residing in pet dander scattered around houses. This same protein can also be found in the saliva and urine of household cats and dogs. Approximately 15 to 30 percent of allergy sufferers experience negative reactions to pet dander, something that often occurs when pets are cooped up inside homes during the winter.

The common symptoms associated with winter allergies include runny/blocked nose, itchy eyes and sneezing. Many allergy sufferers must also contend with with coughing, irritated skin and sore throats. Dark circles might also appear
underneath the eyes.

Getting Relief

The good news is that effective allergy treatments are readily available at your local pharmacy. For example, antihistamines can be used to curtail persistent sneezing, itching and sniffling. Clogged nasal passages can be opened up with decongestants.

In some cases, over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants are simply not potent enough to cut down on allergy symptoms. Because of this, some allergy sufferers receive immunotherapy treatments in the form of tablets and allergy shots. Both treatment methods attempt to bolster the body’s allergy defenses by steadily increasing its exposure to various triggers.

Preventative Measures

Discussing allergy treatments raises a somewhat obvious question; what can allergy sufferers do to keep allergy flare-ups at bay during winter? Listed below are some useful tips for achieving this goal:

  • Out With the Old: Mold often makes its home on old curtains, carpeting and wallpaper. You can get rid of this problem by throwing out these household items.
  • Clean Up Duty: Allergens can also lurk in showers and sinks. To fix this problem, try washing both with a solution containing 5 percent bleach and a dash of detergent.
  • Clear the Air: Another way to ward off allergens is to deprive them of humidity, and what better way to do this than with a dehumidifier? Ideally, the humidity in your home should be under 50 percent.
  • A Nice Wash: Dust mites, pet dander and mold spores frequently attach themselves to sheets and blankets. A quick way to evict these unwanted guests is to wash beddings in hot water (130 degrees Feharenheit) on a weekly basis.
  • Consider a Shopping Trip: Believe it or not, allergy sufferers can purchase allergy proof coverings for both pillows and mattresses. In addition, installing a HEPA air filter can work wonders for your home air quality.

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