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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Are You Ready for Winter Allergy Season?

10 tips for reducing indoor allergy & irritant triggers this winter

Winter has swept in behind a relatively mild fall season. Many parts of the United States have already had a taste of snow and bone chilling cold weather. Like bears hibernating, this usually drives a lot of us inside seeking out warm layers of clothing and covers. Furnaces and fireplaces get fired up and indoor activities are the premium. This time of the year some of my patients welcome winter since outdoor allergy triggers are gone, despite the cold weather that follows. Indoor triggers are the major factors now. But what indoor triggers should you be thinking about?

The best way to understand potential respiratory triggers for those who have allergic nasal problems and/or asthma is to divide them into allergic and non-allergic categories. Dust mites, pet dander, mold spores and cockroaches are the most prevailing indoor allergy triggers in America.

Non-allergic triggers include: chemical residue from cleaning products; small dust particles from fabric (carpets, clothing etc.); combusted particles from ovens, stoves, fireplaces, gas dryers and tobacco; dry air, cold drafts, fragrances from air fresheners (or cleaning products) and just about any material small enough to be suspended in the air.

As you can see, there’s a lot to be considered when thinking about indoor trigger factors. You can get a feel for the density of indoor air pollution infiltrating your house when a ray of sunshine streams through a closed window and you see a plethora of floating dust particles brightly illuminated. As a child I was always amazed at such a spectacle because my mom constantly cleaned and dusted. You would think it would be hopeless to do anything about this. But you would be wrong.

Here are 10 Tips on How to Reduce Indoor Allergy and Irritant Triggers

1)      If you don’t have dust mite proof pillow, mattress and box spring encasements on your bed already, get them! Your regular linen goes on over the encasements and should be washed in hot water weekly to keep the dust mites at a minimum.

2)      If you have a pet keep it out of the bedroom at all times. Not only can it constantly increase the dander particles you inhale, it also provides more food for dust mites (dust mites live off of skin scale, mostly human, but they do not discriminate against dog and cat skin scale).

3)      Change your furnace filters monthly (unless there are other specified instructions) so they don’t get overloaded and spew tons more dust particles out each time it is activated.

4)      If you don’t have a central humidifier consider getting a portable one to add a little moisture to the dry air associated with forced air heaters and radiators. Be certain to clean them as recommended regularly in order to avoid mold infiltration. Dry air can be a nemesis to the sinuses and throat over winter.

5)      If you plan on burning wood in the fireplace find the type with minimal smoke emissions. They will cost more but may be worth it. Of course it would be better to cut out burning would altogether. Close all bedroom doors when the fireplace is lit.

6)      Use fragrance free cleaners for floors and other surfaces. Fragrance free laundry, fabric softeners and bleach is also recommended. That’s right, someone thought of adding fragrance to bleach.

7)      Air filter devices can be helpful to remove small dust particles from the air. The most efficient ones are HEPA based (High Efficiency Particulate Air) but electrostatic type are the next best thing, and usually less expensive 
8)      Maintain a tobacco smoke free home at all times. Third hand smoke is often grossly under-estimated. This is the ash that forms after the tobacco disintegrates from the burning tip of the cigarette. The residue infiltrates carpets, cushions, pillow and mattresses and may hang around for years.

9)      Thinking about going to get a big beautiful evergreen Christmas tree for the family or living room? DON’T DO IT! The dormant mold spores on the live evergreen will soon become activated in the warm indoor environment and unleash millions of microscopic mold particles into your air space. An artificial tree (although associated with more dust) would be a better choice if you have mold allergies.

10)   A trip to your allergy care provider to update your action plan for rhinitis/asthma, to refill prescriptions if needed, and get your flu shot completes the list. I know, this last set of tips doesn’t reduce a household trigger, but it can assist in the effort to stay healthy.

By James Thompson, MD, Health Pro 
Reblogged from Healthcentral

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