Are Winter Allergens Making You Sick?

Thursday, 05 Dec 2013 03:11 PM

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Spring and summer, when pollen counts are high, tend to bring hay fever sufferers a world of discomfort — from sneezing, congestion, and stinging eyes. But winter brings its own set of allergy-related miseries, with dust mites and mold spores causing problems as we close up our homes tight to stay warm.
 
According to Medical News Today, winter allergies contribute significantly to healthcare costs and are a key reason many people seek treatment.
 
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases estimates allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic disease in the U.S., with healthcare costs in excess of $18 billion a year.
 
Editor's note: 3 Signs You’re Close to a Heart Attack

Allergic reactions occur when the immune system responds to foreign substances, producing proteins called antibodies. But in people with allergies, that system goes into overdrive in an effort to fight allergens.
 
About 50 million people are allergic to at least one of the 10 most common allergens: ragweed, grass, tree pollen, Russian thistle, mold, pet dander, dust mites, cockroaches, and peanuts.
 
There is no "cure" for an allergy, but simple steps can help reduce exposure, according to Medical News Today:
  • Turn on the exhaust fan or open a window when showering or cooking to remove excess humidity and odors.
  • Vaccum carpets and upholstered furniture to decrease dust mites and pet allergen levels.
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after playing with a pet to reduce exposure to pet allergens.
  • Launder bed linens and pajamas in hot water (above 130 degrees F) once a week to kill dust mites.
  • Remove shoes and boots at the front door and change into "indoor shoes" or slippers to avoid tracking allergens into the home.
  • Treat the bedroom as the allergy "sanctuary" of the home by keeping pets, carpets, rugs and plants out. Encase pillows and mattresses in special covers to reduce the number of dust mites.
  • Install high-efficiency furnace filters, which capture 30 times more allergens, and make sure the furnace fan is always on.
  • Keep the indoor humidity level between 30-40 percent with the help of a humidifier or dehumidifier to help prevent the growth of mold and mites.
  • Wipe up any condensation after showering or washing dishes, and allow area to dry thoroughly.
  • Change water and filters in the humidifier according to manufacturer recommendations to avoid contamination by mold and bacteria.
  • Conduct an indoor and outdoor survey of the house every month to look for visible mold and identify areas that are at high risk for mold formation.
  • Do not lay carpets in bathrooms or basements, or other rooms where they would sit directly on top of concrete flooring.
Editor's note: 3 Signs You’re Close to a Heart Attack

 

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