In many areas in the northern hemisphere, colder temperatures and precipitation are starting to drive people indoors more and more. And the more time people with indoor allergies spend inside, the more at risk we are for coming into contact with the substances that can make us miserable.
When we get exposed to things like dust mites, pet dander and mold, it can trigger a chain reaction that leads to an immune system response that you feel in the typical symptoms of nasal and eye allergies.
If you'd like to avoid increases in sneezing, sniffling and so on this winter, then this article will help to remind you where the risks are and what you can do about them to stay as healthy as possible.
Dust mites are tiny microscopic organisms that live in dust. They are the most common causes of allergy and asthma symptoms, and they are everywhere. But they are found in greatest numbers in your bedding. And unfortunately, most of us spend more time in our bedrooms than anywhere else in the house. So you will get the most bang for your buck by working to reduce the number of dust mites in your bedroom.
Here are a few things you can do:
- Encase your mattresses, box springs and pillows in zippered cases made of allergen-resistant fabric or plastic.
- Wash blankets, sheets and bedspreads every week in hot (130 degree) water and dry them in a hot dryer.
- If you have pillows or comforters that can't be washed, then encase them in allergen-proof covers too.
- Get rid of wall-to-wall carpeting if possible. Use only small, washable throw rugs.
- Keep humidity low by using a de-humidifier, but be sure to wash it regularly to avoid mold growth.
- Vacuum your bedroom weekly with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA-filter. If you do the cleaning yourself, wear a mask. Better yet, get someone else to do it!
Pet allergens are found in saliva, dander (dead skin flakes) or urine of an animal with fur, but not in the hair or fur itself. There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet, so if you have them, chances are you are being exposed to their allergens. Most people, if they are sensitive, react to pet allergens within minutes of exposure. But sometimes, there is a slow build over 8 to 12 hours after exposure.
If you are allergic to pet allergens, then your best bet is not to have a pet. Even keeping a pet outdoors will not prevent their allergens from getting into your house. But if you must have a pet or cannot avoid being exposed to someone else's then here are some things you can do:
- Minimize your contact with the pet as much as you can. Keep pets out of the bedroom and off of the furniture.
- If you have a caged animal, get someone else to clean it out.
- As with dust mites, pet allergens can settle into carpet, so wood floors with regularly washed throw rugs are better.
- Also, get someone to vacuum regularly with a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner.
Indoor molds and mildew love warm, moist places, so they are most often found in bathrooms, kitchens and basements. They may also be found in potting soil, so it's best to avoid indoor plants if you are mold-sensitive.