Allergies are an overreaction of a person’s immune system to an allergen, an otherwise harmless protein that has no effect on a non-allergic person. Common sources of inhaled allergens are tree, grass and weed pollen, mold spores, dust mites, cockroaches, cats, dogs, birds, cows, horses, rabbits and rodents. The overreaction of the immune system that results from contact with one or more of these inhaled allergens may cause annoying symptoms like coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, and scratchy throat. A person will often have allergies to more than one allergen.
Winter Allergy Triggers
The reason is simple: Many of those warm weather irritants are around all year, like pet dander, mold, and mildew. And once you settle indoors for the chilly holiday season — the windows closed, the heater on — your exposure to these allergens spikes, says Asriani Chiu, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and medicine (allergy/immunology), at the College of Wisconsin.
The best way to handle winter allergies is to understand what’s triggering them and why.
Christmas Tree Allergy
Oh, Charlie Brown, we love your Christmas tree!
Christmas trees are tradition for many families this time of year, they are festive, look great and have that wonderful pine scent. But some allergy sufferers have long suspected that the trees can trigger symptoms.
A recent study showed that the trees can carry mold spores. The mold begins to produce mold spores in the warm and moist home environment. Researchers found that mold spore counts in homes increased tenfold after two weeks.
Best practices for limiting exposure to Christmas tree allergens include washing the tree and its branches with plenty of water prior to bringing it into your home. After a good cleaning, let your tree sufficiently dry to prevent the growth of new mold.
For families with allergies, it recommended to only have the tree in your home for a maximum of seven days.
With artificial trees, store your tree after the season in a cool, dry place and wrap it securely to keep dust from accumulating for next year.
Source: All-American Allergy Alternatives, LLC
Now that indoor heating season is here, little steps can help lighten your allergic load.
- For dust mite sensitive patients:
- Encase your mattress, box springs and pillows with mite-proof covers
- Wash your bedding weekly in hot water
- Use a good HEPA vacuum cleaner, standard vacuums tend to stir dust and allergens
- If possible, remove wall-to-wall carpeting from bedrooms
- Use room air purifiers
- For mold sensitive patients:
- Wear HEPA filter mask when entering an area of suspected mold growth like a damp basement or crawlspace
- Keep humidity low using air conditioners or dehumidifiers
- Use room air purifiers
- Ventilate bathrooms, and clean regularly
- Don’t forget about your car’s AC system, have it checked out if it has a musty odor
- For pet sensitive patients:
- Keep pets out of the bedroom and off of your upholstery
- Wash your hands after contact
- Eliminate carpets wherever possible
- Use HEPA filters in your heater, air conditioner and vacuum cleaners
For more information, request a copy of our dust and mold information sheets by visiting www.allamericanallergy.com
Sources: All-American Allergy Alternatives, LLC; National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. (Getty images)