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Could You Be Suffering From Winter Allergies

Date Posted: February 10, 2014

For many people, spring and summer mean drippy noses, watery eyes, and frantic trips to the drugstore when allergy medication supplies run low. How many times do we see the trees beginning to bloom and think ‘Uh oh, here we go… It’s time to stock up on tissues!’ But winter allergies can be a little trickier to diagnose and can sneak up on us over time. It is not uncommon to spend the winter wondering if we or our kids have a cold that we just can’t shake when in fact we may be suffering from allergy symptoms.
Over the summer, dust mites and mold which have settled in the house and in the vents of our homes and offices, get pushed into the air when the furnace comes on after sitting idle for months. Pet dander gets stirred up and, with all of the windows closed, our exposure to these allergens suddenly spikes, causing symptoms. Winter allergies in children can be particularly hard to diagnose since they bring home all kinds of bugs from school, daycare, and play dates on a regular basis. I will fully admit to taking my four year old to the optometrist one November, worried that his constant blinking and squinting was a sign that he needed glasses. The diagnoses turned out to be winter allergies which were causing eye irritation.
Here are some signs to look for in yourself and your children that may help you identify winter allergies:
·         Irritating tickly or dry coughing which persists longer than two weeks
·         Dark circles under the eyes (caused by increased blood flow near the sinuses)
·         Itchy and/or watery eyes (look for frequent eye rubbing in younger children)
·         Itchy and/or runny nose with clear secretions which persists for more than 3-7 days (another common symptom which can be easily overlooked as a sniffle in children)
·         Sneezing
Again, all symptoms which are easy to write off as winter sniffles, but what you are looking for is persistence of the symptoms and a lack of other cold or flu-like symptoms such as fever and body aches.
The most common winter allergies are to mold, dust mites, and pet dander. If you think you or your kids may be suffering, a visit to the doctor can determine the best course of treatment and testing. Another important step is to try and reduce the number of allergens in your home. Here are some hot-spots for allergens in the winter and how to tackle them:
·         Wash bed linens once a week in hot water (at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit or 55 degrees celcius) and children’s stuffed animals about every 2 weeks.
·         Get dust mite-proof or anti-allergy covers for mattresses and pillows (dust mites thrive in these areas).
·         Vacuum carpets and clean hardwood floors often to keep away dust and pet dander.
·         Change or wash shower curtains and liners at the first hint of build-up before mold can take hold.
·         Clean any mold in the bathroom, focusing on areas around the tub or shower, and mold around bathroom windows. A quick search for ‘mold solutions’ online provides any number of homemade or store bought solutions that work.
·         Use a high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA) to clean the dust mites from the air.
·         Keep house humidity below 30% in order to avoid mold growth.
·         Dust the house thoroughly, especially sleeping areas, paying attention to tops of bookshelves and under beds which are not easily visible.
·         A plastic mat or washable throw rug is a good idea for younger children who spend a lot of time on the floor playing. They can both be easily washed weekly in hot water.
·         Keep your child out of any room where you are vacuuming or dusting for at least 20 minutes. Dust particles get scattered into the air and can cause an allergic reaction.
·         Wear a dust mask when cleaning the house to avoid giving yourself an allergy attack!
As with any kind of medical concern, be sure to consult your doctor if you have any questions. Allergy treatments are plentiful and varied and they will be able to suggest one that is right for you and your family.



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