For many allergy sufferers the arrival of cooler weather spells the end to a miserable summer of pollen allergies. For a few however, this is not the case. Allergies in the winter can be just as miserable, especially for those that have allergies year around. This article will look at the most common forms of winter allergies and how to best cope with them.
What are the most common allergies in the winter?
There are many allergens that cause allergic reactions in many people. These allergens are present throughout the year, but because we tend to spend more time outdoors during warmer weather; or have windows open; allergic reactions tend to be less severe during the warmer months.
When the heating is on and the windows remain closed, there is ample opportunity for common allergens such as dust mite and mold increase in number. Other allergens, such as pet dander are stronger due to the reduced air movement throughout the home.
House Dust Mite
How do these common allergens affect people?
Many people react differently to different allergens. Common symptoms include runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing and coughing. In more severe cases symptoms can show up as asthma as eczema. Winter allergies are often harder to diagnose as they share the symptoms of common colds and flu. Treatment therefore may be delayed as a result.
How to reduce allergens in Winter.
Whilst there is little you can do to completely avoid these allergens, you can reduce their prevalence and effects.
Dust mites themselves are not the trigger for winter allergies. It is their feces that are highly allergenic and Dust Mites like nothing more that a warm dry home to breed. Dust mites are said to be one of the top contributors to allergic Asthma and controlling them is top priority; especially during the winter months.
- Keep surfaces clean from dust. Always use a damp cloth so that the dust is more likely to stick to the cloth and not released into the air.
- vacuum carpets two to three times a week. Dust mites breed in carpets and vacuuming regularly keeps numbers down.
- Wash bedding once a week on a high wash. Ideally at 60 degrees centigrade to make sure any mites and eggs are destroyed.
- If weather permits open windows to air the house. This reduces the build up of dust on surfaces throughout the house.
Although many people are not highly allergic to mold it can cause some severe reactions even in non-sensitive individuals in high concentrations. Mold thrives in warm, moist environments where air flow is restricted (such as shut windows). Mold releases spores that are then inhaled. Once inside the body they then release toxins that can have a number of harmful effects including runny noses, sneezing and in some cases a compromised immune system. Mold can be controlled by drying any damp or wet materials, keep the humidity indoors low by using de-humidifiers. If you dry washing indoors, open a window to reduce moisture build up.
Pet Dander can cause allergies in sensitive individuals which are likely to be exacerbated during the winter months. Pets will remain indoors for longer during colder weather and reduced air circulation will make pet dander worse. To make matters worse, pet dander is a lot finer than dust making them easily airborne.
To relive the symptoms of pet dander allergies try keeping windows open as much as possible. When this is not possible vacuum all surfaces regularly. Pet dander tends to stick to surfaces. It is also advisable to keep at least one room in the house pet free. This provides a sanctuary for pet allergy sufferers.
When colder weather brings relief for many pollen allergy sufferers, it is only just beginning for those who have allergies to many household triggers. Keep the house well ventilated, wipe away any dust on a regular basis, vacuum regularly, wash clothes and bedding at high temperatures; and restrict pets to certain rooms in the house. Following these rules will mean a lot less misery for many people.