Over the past couple of days, the temperature in Houston has taken a plunge. We know the chilly weather won’t last for too long but nevertheless, you will likely be spending more time indoors over the next couple of months. While pollen is one of the primary triggers of spring allergies, the most common allergens during the winter are mold, dust mites, and animals. Some of the most prevalent symptoms of these winter allergies include sneezing, nasal congestion, coughing, and itchy eyes, nose, and/or throat. Cold weather has an indirect effect on the spread of allergens such as mold and dust mites in your home. When it’s chilly outside, you’re more likely to turn on your heater and keep your windows closed. This creates a controlled environment for allergies to fester and enter your body through your nose as you walk around your house. We will take a look at each of these popular allergens and how to deal with them during the winter.
Mold most often forms in damp areas such as bathrooms or basements. While basements are not commonly found in homes in Texas, mold may also be brought into other parts of the home. Mold from yard waste may be transported indoors through your clothing and your shoes. Allergic rhinitis is a disorder that occurs when your body detects substances in the air called allergens. Your allergies flare up when your body’s defense system mistakes harmless allergens, such as mold, for harmful antigens, such as bacteria.
If you’re purchasing a real tree this year, be mindful of the mold spores that may form on your tree. Make sure to spray down your tree with water before you bring it indoors. This will rid your tree of mold spores before they spread throughout your home, so you can enjoy that clean, evergreen smell.
How to Deal With It
If you find mold in your bathroom, scrub the surface with water and detergent. Allow the surface to dry completely. Mold attaches itself to your clothing and to your shoes as you spend time outdoors. To limit bringing mold in from outside, leave your shoes in the doorway to avoid tracking it through the house. Better yet, designate a coat closet for your jackets and shoes to keep mold contained if you have the room. Lastly, put on some indoor clothes and leave the clothes you wore outside in your laundry room to be washed as soon as you have a chance. If you’re allergic to mold, an artificial tree is a good alternative.
Dust mites are another common source of winter allergies and are most often found in mattresses, bedding, and carpet. Though they are too small to be seen by the naked eye, don’t let their size fool you. Symptoms include sneezing, itching, runny or stuffy nose, itchy or teary eyes, and coughing. If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms frequently, particularly in the bedroom, you may be allergic to dust mites.
If you’re planning to break out your artificial tree this year, make sure you dust it off before decorating. No matter how you store it, dust has likely accumulated on your tree due to lack of use over the year. The same holds true concerning your ornaments. Keep your air clean and fresh by giving all of your holiday decor a once-over with a damp cloth prior to hanging throughout your house.
How to Deal With It
Throughout the year, wash bed linens frequently to fight the accumulation of dust mites in your bedroom. Another good rule of thumb is to vacuum twice a week to rid your carpet of dust mites. For a long-term solution, immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is one of the only scientifically proven methods to control allergies over the long-run or potentially “cure” rhinitis.
A final common allergy to be aware of during the winter are animals. While the greatest number of people are allergic to cats, some are allergic to dogs and rodents such as gerbils or hamsters. A common misconception is that people are allergic to animal fur. In fact, most people are actually allergic to a protein found in pet dander, saliva, or urine. And, with the colder weather rolling in, your furry one may be spending more time indoors than usual, making dander accumulate more quickly.
How to Deal With It
Life without your pet would be tough to imagine, so we have a few ways to make things better. Bathe your animals once a week to help alleviate your symptoms. Keep pets off of furniture and off of your bed to limit your exposure. Also, there are various hypoallergenic cats and other dogs that minimize symptoms in those prone to animal allergies.
It can often be difficult to tell the difference between a cold and allergies, especially during the winter. However, if your symptoms persist for weeks, it’s more likely that you are suffering from allergies. There are four basic ways to treat allergies: (1) avoidance; (2) medications; (3) immunotherapy; and (4) treating secondary effects. While we have focused on the first and third basic ways in this blog post, allergy management always begins with allergy testing. After all, every season is allergy season in Houston!
Struggling with allergies, sinuses, or another allergy-related condition? We’ve got plenty of options for you. Take back your health (so you can decorate the Christmas tree without the sniffles) by visit ENT specialist Dr. Pasha and his team. Follow us on Facebook and Pinterest so you can for more updates!