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  • Beware of Winter Allergies. Winter Allergies

    Beware of Winter Allergies.

     

    As winter makes its presence felt so does winter allergies.  Most people don’t associate winter with allergies, but allergies persist into and through the cold months. It is important to dress appropriately, don’t stay outside too long, and know winter allergies do pose slightly different problems than they do during other seasons. Although cold weather and runny noses seem to go together, knowing the difference between a runny nose caused by cold weather and a runny nose caused by winter allergies.

    A runny nose due to cold temperatures is a phenomenon similar to condensation. While the air you breathe in may be cold, your body temperature warms the air and when you exhale, you release that warm, moist air into the environment (which is cold).  As these two temperatures meet, droplets of water are produced, ultimately dripping down from your nose along with the mucus they mix with.

    You may ask, is there a way to prevent cold weather runny nose? If possible, stay indoors when temperatures are extremely low. Unlike winter allergies, the only way to effectively prevent a runny nose from developing due to cold exposure is to avoid breathing in cold air.  One way to do that is by covering your nose and mouth with a wrap or scarf while outdoors, which allows the air to become warm and moist before you inhale it.

    A runny nose due to winter allergies can be caused by a number of allergens.  Preventing a runny nose caused by winter allergies can be tricky.  The problem for many allergy sufferers is figuring out what, exactly, is causing their symptoms.

    When it gets cold and your furnace kicks on at your home, office, or shopping locations, it sends dust, mold spores, and insect parts into the air.  They can get into your nose and launch a reaction.  A big problem with winter allergies is that cold-weather lifestyles can turn a simple allergic reaction into something worse. For example, by turning up your heaters indoor air even drier.   Drier air can lead to dry noses and increases the incidence of nosebleeds and skin cracking — which in turn boosts infection risk when someone’s nasal passages are already inflamed from allergies.

    It may not be possible to get rid of winter allergies entirely, but you can reduce exposure to allergens, at least in your own surroundings. Typically, the best treatment is to minimizing risks to winter allergies by:

    – Using a cool-mist humidifier at the bedside can combat congestion worsened by dry, winter air. If possible, use a house humidifier to reduce dryness in the air, but don’t turn your home into a rain forest.  (Dust mites thrive in humidity over 60 percent and temperatures of 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Mold also grows faster in high humidity. Rank recommends a maximum humidity of 50 percent.) Even if the temperature in your home is mild, air is generally drier during cold-weather months. Humidification can help keep your mucous membranes optimally moistened.

    – Using area rugs and avoid wall-to-wall carpeting, which provides a favorable environment for dust mites.

    – Keeping area clean. Clean, dust, and vacuum regularly, using a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.

    – Washing sheets weekly in hot water — at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit — to kill dust mites, and use hypoallergenic cases for mattresses and pillows to keep dust mites trapped.

    – Minimizing pet dander. Bathe pets once a week — though not more often, as more frequent bathing can dry out a pet’s coat and skin — and keep animals out of the bedroom of anyone in the house who has allergies.

    If you’ve done all you can to allergy-proof your home but you still have winter allergies symptoms try:

    – Using saline nasal spray to help relieve symptoms and lower the risk of contracting a secondary viral infection. Limit use of decongestant nasal sprays to no longer than a few days, as instructed on package labels.

    – Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water

    – Getting plenty of rest

    – Wearing a dust mask if working outdoors, change clothing, and take a shower after coming indoors

    – Avoiding contact with cats and dogs if you are sensitive to animal dander

    – Using tissue protected from allergens. Enclosed tissues boxes are more sanitary than regular tissue holders.  Enclosed base and lid protect tissue from pet dander, dust, mold spores, smoke, and other airborne debris and contaminates.

    In addition, there are many safe and effective over-the-counter medications available to help control winter allergies, such as nasal steroid sprays and oral antihistamines. If the symptoms are severe, a doctor may recommend prescription medications, or referral to an allergist, for testing and targeted therapy.

     

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