By Melanie Chong, MD, Allergy & Immunology Clinic, Valley Medical Center
The end of pollen season may not always signal the end of allergy symptoms for some. Unlike spring and summer allergies which are triggered by pollen, winter allergies are due primarily to indoor allergens. This is due, in part, to more time spent indoors during the winter months. Indoor allergens like dust mites, animal dander and mold can lead to persistent nasal congestion, post-nasal drip and itchy eyes.
There are some things that can be done to reduce the levels of these allergens inside the home. For indoor allergens, implementing more than one measure in a combined effort is more effective than just implementing one alone.
Get Rid of Dust Mites
Dust mite levels can be reduced in the home by frequent vacuuming. Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter may be more effective. These microscopic allergens can also be found on bedding, blankets and pillow cases. Washing these items once weekly in hot washer and hot dryer cycles is helpful as hot temperatures will kill dust mites. Dust mite covers for mattresses can also reduce exposure to these allergens.
Cut Down on Pet Dander
Dander shed by our beloved family members can be reduced by weekly bathing and keeping them out of the bedrooms (if possible!). Air purifiers with HEPA filters can also reduce these allergens in the air.
Reduce Mold Exposure
Mold can be found both indoors and outdoors. Raking leaves can disperse them into the air. Avoidance is the best but if this is not possible, wearing a mask will help to reduce exposure. If there are mold issues in the home, removal and remediation is recommended.
Keep Nasal Passages & Skin From Getting Too Dry
The temperature and humidity changes during winter months can also cause nasal dryness and dry skin. Using a humidifier to moisten the air can help with these symptoms. It’s important to note that dust mites thrive in high humidity. Maintaining a humidity level between 30-50% will help provide a good balance. It’s important to clean the humidifier and replace the filter regularly to avoid mold growth. If possible, using distilled or demineralization water is preferred to avoid bacterial growth.
If you are experiencing nasal symptoms during these winter months, talk to your primary care provider or allergist to help manage your symptoms.
Learn more about Dr. Chong.
Learn more about Valley’s Allergy and Immunology Clinic.