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Winter Allergy Tips

woman blowing her nose

Even though freezing temperatures bring an end to seasonal pollen allergies, millions of people are living with winter allergies because of the time spent indoors during cool weather. A home can actually contribute to sickness due to winter allergens, especially molds, dust mites and animal dander.

Forced-air furnaces circulate airborne dust containing lint, fabric fiber, bacteria, food material and animal dander. Three of the most common allergens — house dust mites, animal dander and cockroach droppings — are worse in winter when there is less ventilation.

Some common symptoms of indoor, winter allergies are sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, coughing and postnasal drip, and itchy eyes, nose and throat.

In arid climates, there are very low levels of dust mite allergen due to the lack of relative humidity, which is necessary for dust mite survival. In these areas, the predominant winter indoor allergen is either animal dander or cockroach allergen, though use of a humidifier may allow dust mites to flourish in the home.

Steps to Minimize Indoor Allergen Exposure

  • Keep humidity below 50% 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 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 habitat for dust mites and can 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.

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