It hardly seems fair, but if you're prone to summer allergies, chances are you're at risk for allergies when the weather turns cold, too. Most winter allergies are caused by the same inhaled allergens of summer.
Many of those warm weather irritants are around all year, like pet dander, mold, and mildew. During the winter months, people tend to spend more time indoors. When windows are shut and the heater is on, less fresh air is circulated through your home and exposure to indoor allergens increases.
In order to combat winter allergies you must first know what your triggers are. Visiting your board certified allergist for testing is the best way to confirm your triggers. With that knowledge in hand, you can create your own allergen reduction and environmental control plan to help reduce your exposure to your specific triggers. Allergen control, reduction and avoidance are a cornerstone of asthma and allergy care. While it is impossible to completely remove household allergens from the home, with the proper measures, allergens can be reduced to manageable levels more suitable for those with asthma and allergic sensitivities.
Here are some common allergens that are present year round and tips for avoiding them:
- Dust mites: These microscopic allergen producers are present in every room of every home and building and bedding, pillows and soft goods are major harbors. Proteins in their eggs and waste are allergens to many asthmatics and those with allergic sensitivities. Routinely wash bedding, rugs and other soft goods in water hotter than 130°F to kill dust mites and denature allergens. Look for CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly™ bedding and encasements that are proven barriers to dust mites to help reduce exposure.
- Pet dander: Because cold weather means pets are indoors more often, your exposure to dander escalates in the winter months, leading to a corresponding surge in symptoms. Wash your pet often and vacuum your house regularly with a vacuum cleaner with high suction power and filtration. All CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly™ vacuums have the proven capability to effectively remove various allergens and trap them within the vacuum cleaner system without leakage through the filter, seals, bag or canister/frame during use and waste removal from the machine
- Mold and mildew: Decaying leaves and other yard waste gives mold and mildew an ideal breeding ground. Shoes and clothes then provide these damp, clingy irritants with an easy way inside. Remove coats, jackets and boots quickly when you come indoors. Wash them regularly to remove accumulated allergens.
- Furnaces and heat pumps – Regardless if there are hard freezes or milder temperatures in your area – airborne allergens like pollen, dust and dander can be repeatedly circulated through your home by your heating system. We do not recommend that asthma and allergy sufferers buy low efficiency, inexpensive air filters since they do a poor job of trapping ultra fine particles, the biggest culprits at triggering allergic and asthmatic reactions. Look for CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly™ HVAC/Furnace filters and replace them as they become dirty.
Finding CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly™ household products is a great way to begin managing and reducing your exposure to allergens. By reviewing your home on a room-by-room basis, you can identify the places where allergens tend to accumulate. For more information, please visit www.aafa.org/certified.