In most areas of the United States, the temps are cold and people are spending more and more time indoors. That means you may be experiencing an increase in your allergy symptoms, if you happen to be sensitive to the types of allergens found indoors.
Most people think of seasonal allergies as being pollen-related for the most part. But if, like me, you are sensitive to both outdoor and indoor allergens, you might find that the fall months are by far your worst time for seasonal allergies. You are encountering what I think of as a “double whammy”:
1. Outdoor allergens, such as still lingering outdoor mold spores in fallen leaves and continuing ragweed (and other weed) pollens circulating right up until your first frost
2. And also, increased exposure to indoor allergens, such as dust mites, pet dander and indoor mold spores
For me, summer and winter are my easiest times of year to weather allergies. At those times of year, I am mostly dealing with either indoor allergens (winter) or outdoor allergens (summer). But in spring or fall, there is an overlap and that can make dealing with your allergies pretty challenging
Seven Quick Tips
I talked about managing ragweed pollen allergies in a previous post, but now let’s take a look at some management and avoidance tips for indoor seasonal fall allergies.
1. Reduce the dust in your house with weekly cleaning. Dust mites live in the dust that accumulates everywhere in your house. Exposure to these tiny microscopic beings can trigger all sorts of allergy symptoms. Weekly vacuuming with a cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter will help, as well as dusting furniture tops. And don’t forget to vacuum the air vents in your ceilings!
2. Get rid of the places dust mites like to hang out. Dust mites tend to accumulate most in bedding and in upholstered furniture and carpeting. Encase your pillows and mattresses in allergy-proof covers that zip. And over time, work to reduce the amount of upholstered fabric furniture in your home. Also, wood or tile floors are better than carpeted ones.
3. Keep your pets, if you have them, out of your bedroom and off of your bed. As much as we love them, our furry friends can be quite disruptive to our health, if you happen to be sensitive to pet dander, urine and/or saliva. And since, you may spend 6 to 8 hours a night in your bed, keeping your pets away from this area of your home can really help to reduce your indoor allergy symptoms.
4. Groom your pets weekly. There is some evidence that weekly bathing and brushing can greatly reduce the amount of dander that your pets shed.
5. Keep mold out of your kitchen and bathroom. Mold spores grow both outdoors and indoors most of the year. They tend to thrive in warm, moist environments, so when you start turning on your furnace and closing the windows, your home becomes a more inviting place for mold. This is especially true in kitchens, bathrooms and basements. Regular cleaning of these areas with antifungal agents, such as a 5% bleach and water solution, can be helpful.
6. Keep mold-prevalent areas well-ventilated. Using exhaust fans or even a de-humidifier can be helpful. Also, be sure to repair any leaks promptly.
7. And finally, don’t stop using your allergy medicine of choice just because you’re spending less time outdoors. As pollen and outdoor mold levels begin to taper off this time of year, you might be tempted to stop taking your allergy medicine or to use it only if you notice symptoms developing. The problem with this is that your medication may not be as effective if you use it to treat symptoms, rather than to prevent them from happening in the first place. So stay on the wagon, and keep using the medicine that is designed to help!
If you’re allergic to both outdoor and indoor allergens, late fall can be a very challenging season for you. But if you take the steps outlined here, hopefully, you will prevent allergy symtoms before they have a chance to start.
Kathi is an experienced consumer health education writer, with a prior career in nursing that spanned more than 30 years — much of it in the field of home health care. Over the past 15 years, she’s been an avid contributor for a number of consumer health websites, specializing in asthma, allergy, and COPD. She writes not only as a healthcare professional, but also as a lifelong sufferer of severe allergies and mild asthma, and as a caregiver for her mother with COPD.