If you find yourself sniffling and sneezing all winter long, there’s a good chance that winter allergies are to blame. Springtime hay fever may get all the press, but winter allergies can cause just as much misery, leaving you with red, itchy eyes, nasal symptoms, a sore throat, and even making you more susceptible to upper respiratory infections. But there’s no need to suffer all winter. Read on for valuable information about the most common winter allergy triggers, and what you can do to beat winter allergies and silence the sneezing.
The Big 3 Winter Allergy Culprits
Winter allergies are caused by indoor allergens. While these allergens can cause problems all year, the issue is more noticeable during colder months when you spend more time indoors and keep your home closed up. Most winter allergy symptoms are triggered by one or all of these 3 common allergens:
- Dust Mites
Dust mites are invisible to the naked eye, but these tiny arachnids can cause big problems. Common dust mite allergy symptoms include sneezing; runny nose; itchy, red, watery eyes; and even asthma symptoms such as wheezing or shortness of breath. Dust mites feed on the dead skin cells that you shed every day. These pests live in carpets, bedding, clothing, and anywhere there is dust. Even the fur your pets shed can be a home for dust mites, which can be a double-whammy if you’re allergic to both pet dander and dust mites.
“Mold” and “mildew” are both words we use to talk about the many types of fungus that can grow in your home. The growth mold releases microscopic spores that float in the air, and too many mold spores can threaten the air quality in your home and cause an unhealthy environment. If you suffer from a mold allergy, you will be even more sensitive to mold in your environment.
Symptoms of mold allergies include runny nose or congestion; sneezing; coughing; hives; itchy eyes or swollen eyelids; itching in your throat or ear canals; wheezing, and trouble breathing.
- Pet Dander
Our pets can feel like part of the family, but they can also trigger allergy symptoms. All breeds of dogs and cats shed dander; there’s no such thing as a “dander-free” breed, although some breeds can shed less dander than others. Other popular pets shed dander as well, including hamsters, ferrets, rabbits, and guinea pigs. You can also become allergic to your pet’s fur, saliva or urine, although dander allergies are more common.
Pet dander allergy symptoms include itchy, watery eyes; sneezing; runny nose or congestion; itchy skin or hives; or asthma symptoms such as wheezing or difficulty breathing.
4 Steps to Keep Winter Allergies at Bay
There is no cure for allergies, and it’s impossible to avoid all allergens all the time. But that doesn’t mean that you’re stuck being miserable–there are steps that you can take to reduce your allergen exposure and control your symptoms. Here are 4 essential weapons for your arsenal to beat winter allergies:
- Talk to Your Doctor
The first step to dealing with any problem is identifying the source. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing allergy symptoms, so she can determine whether you have allergies, and what you are allergic to. Your doctor can also prescribe treatments such as immunotherapy, nasal sprays or other medications, and recommend over-the-counter treatments such as oral antihistamines.
- Clean Allergens from Your Home
It’s impossible to completely rid your home of mold or dust mites, and the only way to completely get rid of pet dander is to get rid of your pet. It is possible, though, to wash away a lot of your winter allergy triggers and reduce your symptoms. Here are tips for reducing the big 3 indoor allergens:
For Dust Mites
The first step for reducing dust mites is to reduce the dust in your home. Consider using carpet-free flooring such as hardwood or laminate, which doesn’t hold onto dust, as well as leather furniture. Dust frequently, and clean up any pet hair. Have professionals clean your home’s ductwork regularly, and change the filter in your furnace regularly. Heating vent covers can also reduce airborne dust. Special dust mite covers for your mattress and pillows can reduce your nighttime exposure to dust mites. There are also linen sprays that can repel dust mites, such as this inexpensive “green” spray made from eucalyptus oil.
If you have mold and mildew growth in your basement, bathroom, laundry room, or other areas in your home, removing the mold is essential for reducing the mold spores in the air. Wet & Forget Indoor Mold + Mildew Disinfectant Cleaner kills the mold, cleans the mess, disinfects, deodorizes, and inhibits mold re-growth on hard, non-porous surfaces. Eliminating mold growth couldn’t be easier!
For Pet Dander
If your pet dander allergy is severe, you may need to consider re-homing your pet. If you want to keep your pet and reduce your pet allergy symptoms, you can take steps to reduce your exposure to pet dander. As with dust mite allergies, consider switching to hard flooring and leather furniture. Mopping the floor and wiping down the furniture can remove more dander than is possible with carpeting and fabric. Keep your pet out of your bedroom. Bathe your pet frequently, and dust your home frequently.
- Control Your Home’s Humidity
Mold needs a moist environment to grow, and dust mites also need a certain amount of humidity to survive. Reducing your home’s humidity can greatly reduce both of these allergens. Excessively dry air can cause nasal symptoms, so there is an ideal humidity range to keep you comfortable and keep allergens at bay. The EPA recommends keeping your home’s humidity between 30 and 50 percent to prevent mold growth, and keeping the humidity below 50 percent will also reduce dust mites in your home. Humidity gauges and de-humidifiers will help you keep your home’s humidity at a healthy level.
- Consider an Air Filter
Because all 3 of these indoor allergens affect air quality, filtering your home’s air can help reduce the problem. A HEPA filter will remove dust, animal dander, and mold spores from your home’s air. Be sure to select a certified HEPA filter that will filter capture particles, while making sure to follow the directions for cleaning and/or changing the filter regularly. A HEPA filter also works for pollen, which can help you if you suffer from hay fever. If you have carpeting, a vacuum with a HEPA filter will reduce the amount of dust and pet dander than becomes airborne as you vacuum.