For most seasonal allergy sufferers, the colder temperatures bring immense relief. That’s because a hard freeze generally stops the production of pollen and mold allergens.
Unfortunately the cold weather doesn’t help alleviated symptoms for those with indoor allergens, such as pet dander, house dust, or mites. In fact, these allergens, especially allergies that cause extremely dry skin, are often worse when the house is closed up and there is less fresh air circulating throughout the home.
If you have indoor allergies, here are a few suggestions to make indoor living more tolerable:
▪ Have a pet-free zone. Make the bedroom an oasis from allergens. By having the door closed and running an air purifier with a HEPA filter, you can reduce the impact of some of the allergens.
▪ Continue to take allergy medications. Your year-round allergies may be ease up when the cold weather comes, but you still have allergies. You may feel better, but if you come off the medication it keeps the allergic response in the nose smoldering. You may feel OK for a while, but when spring comes, you could get hit really hard by your allergies.
▪ Control dust. Dust Mites, microscopic-sized bugs, are the main allergens found in dust and can cause major problems, including breathing issues. To control them, encase mattresses, box springs and pillows in special allergen-proof fabric covers or airtight, zippered plastic covers, wash bedding and stuffed animals in hot water weekly. Keep indoor humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent to mitigate mite and mold growth. If you prefer carpet to hard floor surfaces, vacuum frequently, with a dust mask if allergies are severe using a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) filter or a double-layered bag.
▪ Control molds. Indoor molds and mildew thrive in dampness, such as basements, bathrooms places where there is a leak. Wash hard surfaces with water and a small amount of bleach to remove mold. Reduce moisture in the air by using a dehumidifier, and repair and seal leaking roofs and pipes.
▪ Protect against sinus and nasal irritation. The winter is the season when people gather indoors to share love, food, gifts – and germs. Allergy sufferers can be more likely to contract infections so exercise precautions such as hand washing and getting a flu vaccination. Here are tips for reducing nasal dryness and inflammation:
▪ Salt water rinses offer cheap and effective relief. Whether using Neti-Pots, squeeze bottles, aerosol sprays or a Water-Pik with an adapter, saline lavage is a great way to “keep your nose clean” (pun intended).
▪ Saline gel, “lotion for the nose.” It contains salt water, aloe vera and hyaluronic acid, which is similar to lubricating fluid in the joints. When applied to the nasal surfaces it protects it from the cool dry air of winter which causes bleeding and irritation. It comes in a tube or spray bottle (Ayr, Neil Med, other manufacturers) and is available over the counter.
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a complex skin condition seen mostly in allergic children. It is typically worse in the winter. In addition to above suggestions, be sure to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Avoid drying out the skin by over washing during the winter and follow your physician’s instructions for treatment of eczema flares; usually application of a topical steroid cream.
Thomas A. Scott is an allergist at Via Christi Clinic on Murdock.