The risk of winter allergies can be lowered by preventing the allergens that cause asthma and rhinitis. Although the springtime is more commonly known to produce allergens, the winter can also generate allergens.
During the wintertime we spend many more hours indoors, which can produce allergens. Common winter allergens are dust and mold, and even fragrances can set off an allergic reaction. But sometimes to improve winter allergens it’s important to manage other conditions, such as asthma, which can make them much worse.
5 common winter allergen risks
There are five common winter allergen risks to look out for: dust, mold, animal dander, Christmas trees, and smoke and pollutants.
Dust: Dust and dust mites are lurking in every inch of your home – even if you’re an avid cleaner. They are microscopic and can induce allergy-attacks. Dust and dust mites can be found in bedding, mattresses, carpets and upholstered furniture.
Removing dust and dust mites involves the use of dust-proof covers on your mattress and pillows, along with regular washing of the bedding. Vacuuming carpeted areas is also effective in reducing dust and dust mites, and using an air filter can help trap anything airborne.
Mold: Mold can be found in damp environments, such as basements or washrooms. Mold can also be airborne and trigger asthma and rhinitis. To fix mold, plumbing issues need to be addressed and damp areas should be properly ventilated.
Make sure you look at ceiling tiles and underneath rugs as well; mold can hide in these areas – especially behind a toilet.
Animal dander: We all love our pets, but unfortunately they can leave behind dander that can cause an allergic reaction. Dander is dead skin cells from our animals, and it’s found on most animals including birds, rodents, cats and dogs. With more time being spent inside with our pets we become more exposed to their dander, causing worsened symptoms. To reduce reactions, make sure your pet doesn’t enter areas where you spend a lot of time, especially the bedroom because it will cause difficulty sleeping.
Christmas trees: Christmas trees, real or fake, do not necessarily cause allergies, but they can develop mold and even dust, which are two risk factors. If you opt for a real tree, wash it off prior to bringing it into the home to get rid of any mold. Even an artificial tree can develop mold and dust, depending on where it is stored. Giving your artificial tree a good cleaning will save you many nights of sneezing and watery eyes.
Smoke and pollutants: If you use firewood to keep warm in the winter, keep in mind that smoke is a common allergen that can affect allergies. Furthermore, if you’re using firewood that you’ve chopped and stored, it can also grow mold, so be mindful of this as well.
Tips to minimize winter allergen exposure
Now that you are aware of what allergens are present in the winter, here are some tips to help you reduce your exposure to them.
- Keep humidity below 40 percent in the home to reduce dust mites
- Remove wall-to-wall carpeting
- Good insulation reduces mold
- Wash bedding in hot water at least once a week
- Avoid down pillows or comforters
- Clean your floors regularly with a damp mop to pick up dust
- If you have allergies have another person in your household do the vacuuming or dusting; you will be exposed to more of them if you do it yourself
- On warmer days opening a window can help circulate the air and get rid of excess allergens after cleaning
- Minimize contact with pets – as stated do not allow them in your bedroom
The best way to treat winter allergens is by knowing what yours are so you can devise a plan to reduce your exposure. You may find dust is worse than pet dander, for example. By following the above tips you can help reduce your risk of an allergy attack and actually begin to enjoy winter instead of dreading it. And remember, being cooped up inside for all those months can increase the risk of an allergic reaction, so try to head outdoors as much as possible.
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