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Winter Allergies

Win the Fight Against Allergies in the Winter

Before you breathe a sigh of relief that allergy season is over, think again: Four in ten children are affected by indoor allergies, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Even if your child does not typically have allergies, winter increases the chances your child will be affected. As temperatures grow cooler, we close windows and doors and trap substances like pet dander, dust, dust mites and mold inside. When we turn on the heat, those allergens circulate through the house. Adult’s and children’s immune systems become hypersensitive to these increased levels of allergens, resulting in a long winter  of sniffles and sneezing.

The top indoor allergens

Allergens affect your child because they tend to stay airborne, which causes an allergic reaction when your child breathes them in. The most common indoor allergies are:

  • Dust mites – These microscopic insects are most often found in bedding and soft furnishings like couches, carpeting and plush toys. They live on the human skin cells we shed and produce powdery fecal pellets that discharge into the air or stay embedded in fabric.
  • Pet dander – Pet dander can get anywhere in your house, even where your pets don’t set a paw. Composed of microscopic flecks of skin, dander easily sticks to furniture, bedding and fabrics, and remains in the air for a long time.
  • Mold – Mold spores are a natural part of the environment. But in winter, those spores can greatly increase. Christmas trees, firewood and houseplants can be sources for mold spores in the home. Mold is also typically found in basements, bathrooms without windows, behind walls or under a wet carpet.
  • Dust – Dust can be composed of all the indoor allergens: dust mite feces, pet dander and mold spores.

Reduce the risks of winter allergies

You can improve indoor air quality and reduce your child’s exposure to allergens this winter by following these tips:

  • At the door: Keep outdoor allergens from invading by using a door mat at each entrance, inside and out. Shake both mats, outside, twice a week.
  • On the floor:  Eliminate allergens by vacuuming all floor surfaces thoroughly once a week, using a vacuum with a HEPA filter to reduce particles thrown into the air. While you are vacuuming the floor, make sure to use the upholstery attachment to vacuum padded furniture.
  • In the furnace: Make sure to install a high-efficiency furnace filter and change it every three months.
  • In the bedroom: Wash sheets, blankets and pillowcases weekly in hot, soapy water and dry them thoroughly. When the bed is stripped, vacuum the mattress. Keep pets out of children’s bedrooms.
  • Hands and face: Wash your child’s hands and face frequently. Make sure your child showers before bedtime, so allergens are not brought into bed.

Is it an allergy or a cold?

At early onset, the symptoms of a cold and an allergy can seem the same. But while a cold typically lasts five to seven days, an allergy can last as long as the allergy trigger is present. Although cold and allergy symptoms are similar, there are some differences:

Symptom Allergy Cold
Runny nose Clear mucous Yellow or green mucous
Throat Itchy and red Sore and red
Watery eyes Itchy Not Itchy
Fever Not usually Yes
Chills and body aches No Yes

 

When allergy symptoms do show, help make your child more comfortable. Offer plenty of water and juice to keep them hydrated. A stuffy nose is one of the toughest allergy symptoms your child can suffer. Saline nose spray helps to sooth and clear nasal passages. Warm tea can ease a stuffy nose and itchy throat. For itchy eyes, try a cool compress.

Consult your child’s doctor before using medications, and always carefully follow dosage directions.