For people with allergies, the change in seasons can usher in watery eyes, sniffles and itchy skin. The main culprit in warmer months is pollen. Come winter, there’s less pollen, but that doesn’t mean that allergies go away. Instead, indoor allergens take over, causing the same symptoms but without the benefit of hiding in your home to get some relief.
Life often moves indoors during the winter. As a result, the dust, dander and other irritants that lurk in your home are more likely to cause you grief during an otherwise cozy time of year.
If you’ve got a case of winter allergies, you don’t have to sniffle and sneeze your way through the season. Here are eight things to avoid if you have indoor allergies.
Disclaimer: the following is meant as information only and should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition, including allergies. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your health.
#1) Pets in the bedroom
You love your furry friends, but their dander can cause a host of allergy issues. To keep allergens in your home as low as possible, keep your pets outdoors when possible. If that’s not an option for you, set some boundaries instead.
For starters, make your bedroom a no-pets zone. This will help keep down the number of allergens in your room so you can get better sleep.
Take your animals to the groomer regularly. Frequent beauty sessions will clear away much of the dander that gives you trouble.
Wash your hands after petting your dog or cat, too. That way, you’ll transfer fewer allergens to your face.
#2) Household dirt & grime
Allergies or not, keeping a clean house is important year round, for obvious reasons. Still, you may want to clean extra in the winter months since you spend so much time indoors.
Your home may be harboring a fleet of nasty things, including:
- Mold spores
- Dander from pets or rodents
- Cockroach droppings and shells
- Dust mites
Any of these could trigger allergies. Even if you can’t see them, they may be causing problems for you.
The more often you clean, the less buildup there will be. Make dusting, sweeping and vacuuming top priorities. Don’t forget to hit the places you may not think about, such as under and behind the beds, couches and shelving units.
Seasonal decorations can give your home a cozy feel this winter. Just make sure you to give your decor items a good wipe-down when you take them out of storage. You’ll banish any allergens before they have a chance to stuff up your nose.
In moist areas, be proactive when it comes to mold. Basements and bathrooms can be especially prone to mold growth. Check under your sinks, too, since dampness there could encourage mold to develop. If you discover a major mold problem, call professional mold removers before the problem gets worse.
#3) Dust mites
Dust mites are itty bitty bugs, and they’re everywhere. They especially like soft or upholstered surfaces.
Wherever they go, they leave behind traces of themselves. That includes their fecal matter as well as the remnants of their dead bodies. This debris is a prime source of indoor allergies.
Do what you can to keep dust mites from taking over your sleeping spaces. Otherwise, you’re going to be hanging out with those allergens all night long.
Wash your bedding weekly using hot water. The washing cycle will help clear any traces of dust mites from your sheets, blankets and pillowcases. Consider washing your kids’ stuffed animals as well. For stuffies that can’t be washed in a machine, freeze them for 24 hours and wipe with a damp cloth to remove excess dust.
Also, put your mattress in a protective cover so that it’s less hospitable to dust mites. Smaller covers are available for pillows, too. You can find these products at big box retailers, or ask your allergist for recommendations.
#4) Fluffy carpet
No matter how often you clean, carpeting can be a problem for people with allergies. That’s because it’s so good at holding on to dust mites and other allergy triggers.
Pulling up the carpet is a big job, but if you’re really suffering, it may be worth it. Replace it with hard-surface flooring that can be swept clean.
Popular choices include:
Just keep in mind that synthetic flooring materials give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These can trigger allergies, especially over the first few days. You may need to let them air out before installation. If you’re concerned about VOC exposure, ask a flooring professional for advice on your best options.
Of course, carpet is comfy. If you just can’t bear to give it up, switch the style instead. Avoid loose, fluffy varieties. Choose a low-pile carpet that’s tightly woven. You may also consider rugs as an alternative, since a rug might be easier to keep clean.
If allergies have congested your sinuses and dried out your throat, you may be thinking about running a humidifier while you sleep. Humidifiers offer temporary relief to lots of people.
But if you’re an allergy sufferer, beware: humidifiers can get pretty dirty inside.
The wet environment is just right for mold and bacteria growth. When the unit sprays out water vapor, it may also send bits of mold or germs into the air. Breathing all of that isn’t going to do you any favors. Some people even develop flu-like symptoms after spending time around a contaminated humidifier.
Instead, try saline drops or spray to help your nose feel better. If you’re really stuffy, run a hot shower. The steam can help break up the congestion.
#6) Furnace troubles
You depend on your furnace to keep you warm all winter. If you’re not careful, though, it could be making your allergies worse. Dust and other allergy-provoking debris may be hiding in the nooks and crannies of your heating system.
Once a year, preferably at the start of the season, have a furnace professional come out for a tune-up. The tech will look over your system to make sure it’s in proper working order. Cleaning the parts is usually included in the job, too. A tune-up is the best way to start the year with an HVAC system that’s low on dust.
Throughout the season, change your furnace filter regularly. A blocked filter won’t be effective at trapping dust and other allergens. Consult the manufacturer for details, but some filters need to be changed monthly.
Use a rag to clear dust from your HVAC vents and returns. Your home might also benefit from professional ductwork cleaning. A technician will have the equipment to remove buildup from the far recesses of your ducts.
#7) Wood-burning fireplaces
In general, burning logs isn’t going to be the sole thing that causes your allergies to flare up. But if you’re already having allergy issues, smoke and soot could make them worse.
Relaxing by a winter fire can be so cozy, though. Fortunately, you may not have to give up this pleasant pastime.
Fireplace inserts can retrofit a wood-burning fireplace so that it produces flames using natural gas or electricity instead. These inserts may even include blowers that will warm the room.
There are some concerns about natural gas and its association with asthma. If you suffer from asthma, consider an electric fireplace as an alternative.
#8) Putting off medical care
As hard as you try, there may be a limit to how well you can avoid winter allergy triggers. Instead of trying to go it alone, turn to a professional for help.
Your doctor may recommend running tests to identify your specific allergies. You might also be a good candidate for allergy shots or daily medication. Either or a combination may provide relief so you can enjoy your space – and your life – year round.