child with allergiesThe Importance of Knowing What You Breathe at Home Especially During Winter

– By Dustin Jefferson Onghanseng –

It’s winter. The wind is picking up and the temperature is dropping. It’s the time to be jolly! 

But that may not apply to everyone. To some, this kind of weather marks the start of a red nose, constant sneezing and sniffling and the dreaded asthma and allergy attacks.

{module 374|division|showtitle=0}Once the cold weather kicks in, you immediately start to experience watery and itchy eyes and nose, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing and other symptoms of winter allergies. To make it worse, you have no idea how to prevent these allergies, let alone what exactly causes the symptoms.


How the Change of Season Affects Your Allergies

During spring, summer, and autumn, the prevalence of allergies is high mostly due to the abundance of pollens and spores outdoors–tree and plant pollens in spring, grass pollens in the summer, and ragweed and mold in the fall.

You may be wondering why you have a stuffy nose and watery eyes despite the fact that you’ve been spending more time indoors lately. The answer lies in indoor allergens and your ability or inability to keep them under control.

When it is cold outside, your furnace kicks in. This sends mold spores, dust, pet dander, and even insect parts floating in the air. And because you spend the majority of your time indoors, you eventually breathe more of these particles in, triggering a response. During the allergic reaction, your immune system goes into overdrive and releases histamine, a chemical that triggers symptoms of an allergy attack.

A few common sources of allergy triggers in your home include:

1.  Dust mites

Dust mites are microscopic organisms that enjoy warm, humid places and thrive in mattresses, bedding, couches, and other upholstered furnishings. These critters are touted to be the most common cause of allergy regardless of the season.

It and its droppings and remains float around when anyone walks on the carpet, vacuums, or makes the bed. A home does not have to be visibly dirty to trigger an allergic reaction to dust mites as the particles they give off are too tiny to be seen by the naked eyes. Normal cleaning methods will also not be able to remove them completely.

2.  Mold

A common seasonal allergy trigger, mold is a fungus that releases spores into the air. When individuals with allergy to mold breathe in or get in contact with the spores, it causes allergic reactions that are exhibited by scaling skin, congestion, itching, sneezing, and runny nose.

Since mold favours musty, damp, and moist conditions, grass cuttings, piles of rotten leaves, logs, compost heaps, the bathroom, garden sheds, the kitchen, the basement, and the attic are prime spots for mold growth. Window frames and grouts in the bathroom are key mold environments, too, particularly when there’s plenty of condensation and when humidity levels are high.

3. Pets

While your dog may be your best friend, it may also be the one causing your allergy symptoms. Animal fur, contrary to the popular belief, is not actually the prime suspect for causing allergies. Rather, people are allergic to the protein found in the animal’s urine, saliva, and dander (dead skin flakes). Apart from furry felines and canines, birds can also trigger your allergy with their feathers and bird droppings. When combined with household dust, these elements can be very strong allergy triggers.

4. Perfumes

Dressing up for events and occasions usually means dabbing on cologne or spraying perfume. If you are allergic to fragrances but are not aware of it, you could be making your winter allergies a lot worse without even realizing it.

Fragrance allergy is a condition where individuals get allergic reactions to certain odors and smells. These perfumes often contain volatile organic compounds or VOCs, which are chemicals in the air that can negatively affect our health. Symptoms vary from one person to another, but, generally, a whiff of a particular aroma could lead to constant sneezing, breathing problems, and skin reactions such as blistering, itching, and rashes.

Beyond perfumes and colognes, hairspray, lotions, potpourri, cleaning detergents, and air fresheners can elicit allergic reactions among individuals with fragrance allergies.

How to Prevent Winter Allergies

Allergens do not take time off, so you better be well-prepared to fight them. Here are some tips for reducing indoor allergens during the winter season and making your stay at home easier and more bearable.

1. Inspect your home or have a professional examine it for mold. If you opt to do it yourself, make sure to wear a face mask as well as gloves, so should you encounter mold, the risk of getting a reaction is minimised.

2. Don’t try to wash or clean mold-infested items. Immediately throw out wallpaper, carpeting, and shower curtains that have mold. For mold in sinks, grout, and tiles, spray the area with a homemade solution containing a bit of detergent and about five percent bleach before scrubbing them away. Again, wear gloves, a face mask, and goggles.

3. If you’re using a regular filter in your HVAC system or vacuum cleaner, consider replacing it with a HEPA filter to better clean the air you breathe from household dust.

4. Use an indoor air quality sensing device, so you can monitor and control the substances in the air that are making your allergies worse. Aside from household dust, a good indoor air quality sensor can also track levels of harmful gaseous compounds such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, VOCs and ground-level ozone, among others, and alerts you when it is about to reach unhealthy levels. In fact, check this out for a chance to win an indoor air quality sensor.

5. Winter is a season for parties and events. If you’re susceptible to pet dander and your friend or relative is bringing their furry pet over, make sure to get allergy shots prior to the occasion or have an allergy medication at hand.

About the Author:

Visionary | Strategist | Rebel. Dustin is a bold visionary on what healthcare is supposed to be, a strategist in the journey towards that vision, and a rebel who never accepts the status quo. He founded uHoo, a company that utilizes technology to help people live healthier, to do just that.

Mary Forman

Mary is an educator and a parent of three children. She is the author of 7 children's books, loves arts and crafts and teaches parenting classes at Washington Community College.

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