Most of us associate allergies with spring and summer when things are in bloom. Even some of us who don’t have allergies seem affected by a vigorous bloom; however, folks who have spring allergies are also more prone to winter allergies. The human immune system’s sensitivity to different allergens is very individualized. But if one is prone to spring allergies then there is a greater chance that you may have problems in the winter even though the triggers are entirely different.
When the weather gets cooler, we close up the house and turn on the heat, making the perfect storm for allergy sufferers. Dust, mold, mildew and pet dander are the big winter culprits. The secret is these things are actually around all year long. In sensitive individuals, these factors may intensify allergies any time of year but really come into play in the cooler weather. Trying to minimize the amount of these allergens in your environment is helpful.
Even though you cannot truly be the master of your domain, you can improve the condition of your habitat by following these tips:
1. Avoid known allergens: This means some regular house cleaning, probably weekly with a more vigorous attention to problem areas once per month. Keep pets out of the bedroom – this will make your sleeping area as a safe zone to keep down the amount of pet dander, dust and molds that animals also carry on them wherever they go. You spend a lot hours in your bedroom, so keep it as allergen-free as possible. Really sensitive individuals may consider showering more often to remove potential allergens from hair, skin and clothing.
2. Change your bedding weekly. Washing sheets, linens and towels helps keep the amount of dust, dust mites and mildew down to a minimum. Dust mites are microscopic organisms that exist everywhere. They thrive on dry skin cells that naturally slough off our bodies. Special bedding or mattress covers can be purchased that help contain this situation for individuals who need additional help. Allergy bedding and special mattress covers can be purchased at many department stores that handle regular bed linens.
3. Add moisture. The dry indoor air exacerbated by heating systems of any kind is irritating to airways and tends to make people with allergies even more vulnerable. Room humidifiers, liberal use of saline nasal spray, nasal irrigation systems, and simply staying well hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids can be very helpful.
4. Take allergy medicine regularly. If you suffer with allergies, you need to be proactive and take a preventive stance against your symptoms. Waiting until you feel bad is too late. It is much harder to gain control by that time. There are good non-sedating antihistamines that are available without prescription, very effective and still form the foundation of allergy control.
5. Consult your healthcare provider. If you still can’t gain control and a functional level of comfort with the above mentioned measures, there are additional prescription medications that can be effective. Discussing which choices are right for you and the severity of allergies would be time well spent.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. There is help. It is just a matter of identifying what your triggers are and how best to avoid them.
– Dr. Bruce Kaler