You don't have to let allergies get the best of you. Since a new year has begun, I thought it might be helpful to look at some actions you can take to reduce the effect that allergies have on your daily life.
1. Keep a symptom and trigger diary for a month. Sometimes it's hard to pinpoint exactly what is setting off your allergy symptoms. Keeping a written log of which symptoms you have and when they occur can often help you figure out what might be causing them. And once you know that, you can work to reduce your exposure to the offending substances.
2. Beware of "cedar fever". Most people associate nasal allergies with spring, summer and fall months. They often think that once cold weather descends, allergy symptoms will disappear. And, for some people that is true -- but not for everyone. If you're like me and allergic to dust, mold and animal dander, then you already know that your allergy symptoms never really go away.
But, in addition, there is a true winter pollen allergy you need to be aware of. First off, if you live in Texas or Oklahoma, there is a type of cedar tree called the Mountain Cedar, that pollinates in the wintertime. If you're allergic to that pollen, you can expect severe allergy and asthma symptoms at this time of year. So keep track of the pollen levels and stay indoors when they are high.
3. Prevent dry skin. Winter can also bring dry skin and if you have skin allergies, the dryness can make them worse. Between the hotter showers you may be taking to get warm and the artificial heat coming out of your furnace, your skin doesn't stand a chance. So be sure to use lots of moisturizer and reduce the heat in the shower, or take shorter showers.
4. Know your allergy irritants. Winter cold and wind can further irritate inflamed nasal passages, as can wood smoke. So if you go outdoors during cold, windy days, protect your nasal passages with a scarf or neck gaiter. And do your best to avoid inhaling wood smoke too.
5. Counteract more indoor time with better trigger management. Mold levels, animal dander and dust mite exposure may be higher since you're spending more time indoors. Also, because doors and windows are closed during the winter, the levels of those triggers can really multiply quickly. So rigorous trigger management is needed. Change your furnace filter every month. Vacuum with a machine that has a HEPA filter every couple of days. Keep pets off your bed. Consider adding a de-humidifier to rooms where mold levels might be high, such as basements or attics.
Take time to focus on managing your allergies and the results will be worth it!