This time of year during cold and flu season, it’s common to experience a runny nose, congestion, postnasal drip and a cough. But if your symptoms also include skin irritation or itchy/watery eyes, allergies may be to blame.
What Causes Winter Allergies?
There’s no pollen floating in the air during winter, so usually indoor allergens are to blame for winter allergy symptoms. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, common indoor winter allergens include:
- Pet dander. Have your symptoms worsened since bringing home a furry friend from Helping Hands Humane Society during quarantine? If so, pet dander (the dead skin flakes, not the fur/hair) may be to blame.
- Dust mites. It’s not actually dust, but enzymes in the waste of the microscopic bugs that feed on dust that trigger symptoms.
- Indoor mold. People with asthma or a mold allergy tend to experience symptoms mostly after spending time in bathrooms, kitchens, utility rooms and basements.
- Cockroach droppings. These persistent pests can reside anywhere, and despite popular opinion do not necessarily signify an unhygienic or unsanitary household. Even so, be sure to seal food tightly to help keep them away.
While these allergens may be present year-round, they tend to be more noticeable in winter. This is because winter months, especially during the pandemic, are when people tend to stay home more often with the windows closed and heaters on, trapping and circulating allergens.
Preventing Winter Allergies by Reducing Exposure
While it may not be possible to eliminate allergens entirely, there are effective ways to reduce exposure. Try our tips below:
- Maintain less than 50% humidity. Dust mites thrive in humidity over 60%, especially in temperatures between 60 and 85 degrees. Mold also grows faster in higher humidity. While you’ll want to avoid making your home too dry – as this can increase risk of nosebleeds and skin cracking – make sure it’s not too humid either.
- Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting. Dust mites thrive in carpet. We recommend replacing carpet and using area rugs instead, which means less square footage for dust mites as well as easier cleaning.
- Clean, dust and vacuum weekly. We recommend using a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
- Wash sheets in hot water weekly. Water that is at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit will kill dust mites. We also recommend using hypoallergenic cases for mattresses and pillows.
- Bathe pets weekly. This will help minimize dander. Don’t bathe them more frequently than this, as it can dry out their skin and coat. Keep animals outside of bedrooms if possible.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Topeka ENT today.