Some may think that the misery of allergies is still just a distant worry since the blissful warmer months of spring and summer are still several weeks away. However, if you’ve been suffering from persistent sneezes, sniffles and discomfort all throughout the winter months, it may be more than just a cold that you’ve been battling. All of that fluid and achiness could mean you’ve already been suffering from allergies caused by indoor allergens.
“Indoor allergies can be just as severe as environmental or outdoor allergies caused by pollen,” explained Dr. Marc Dean, Ear, Nose & Throat specialist. “The body can spend elongated periods of time fighting an allergen it believes to be an ‘intruder’, but those symptoms can feel very similar to a cold.”
Homes can be war zones for indoor allergens, and many people have no idea they are suffering from allergies during cold, winter months. Allergy and cold symptoms can be so similar that many people will go untreated for long periods of time or even take the wrong medication. However, the main differentiator between colds and allergies is time. If symptoms last longer than 10 days and are not accompanied by a cough or fever, it is likely allergies, not the common cold. Additional symptoms often associated with a cold and not allergies are body achiness, greenish-yellow mucous, and congestion. Cold symptoms usually take a few days to appear after exposure to a virus, but allergy symptoms will appear immediately after exposure. This is a clear indication that an allergen is causing the body’s reaction.
Dust mite, mold and animal dander are the most common causes for indoor allergies. The more time spent indoors, the greater the exposure to the allergens that may cause uncomfortable reactions. Indoor allergens can lurk in unexpected places and unless identified and removed, can cause problems for a long period of time.
“It’s important to know when your allergies or symptoms are getting worse, so that you can identify the cause. Understand where your symptoms flare up inside your home or in which room you are experiencing the most discomfort. This will help determine the cause of those symptoms,” explains Dr. Dean.
Experts offer a few tips on how to reduce symptoms and minimize exposure to these pesky allergens:
Frequent dusting, cleaning and vacuuming can prevent overexposure to dust mites and dander. Dust mites tend to congregate in areas such as bedding, upholstered future and carpeting, though they can be found throughout the entire home. Carpeting in general can be problematic for allergies; however, having carpeting and rugs regularly cleaned can help to reduce this issue. HEPA vacuums are highly recommended for the task, as they suck up smaller particles than traditional vacuum cleaners. Washing bedding in hot water and drying it a high temperature can also be helpful for lessening dust mites. The Mayo Clinic also suggests encasing pillow, mattresses and box springs in dust-mite-proof covers.
Dander is essentially, the dead skin flakes of warm-blooded animals. In order to keep pet dander to a minimum, pets should be kept in only certain areas of the home and generally should not be allowed in bedrooms. Animal dander is also very likely to gather on upholstered sofas and chairs or in carpeted areas. If these cannot be replaced with alternatives such as leather, wood, metal or plastic, washing those areas thoroughly and frequently is essential.
According to the Washington Post, a study of 831 houses across the country found that two-thirds of researched homes had detectable levels of cockroach allergens. This same study found that higher levels of this allergen were found in apartments and older, urban homes. Rid the home completely of cockroaches by contracting a professional exterminator.
Dehumidifiers can help diminish the amount of mold spores throughout the home since mold tends to grow in damp places such as bathrooms and basements. Keeping humidity less than 50 percent is an overall good rule of thumb. If mold is visible in any part of the home, it should be treated immediately with a diluted bleach solution. Ventilation is also a highly recommended form of prevention for mold. Installing and using an exhaust fan to reduce moisture in bathrooms and kitchens can decrease the chances for mold throughout the home. Lastly, removing moldy or water-damaged carpeting or flooring is essential to reducing mold allergens throughout the house.
These are just a few ways to reduce indoor allergies while the weather still has us all cozied up inside. With the spring months just a few weeks away, pollen will soon be the primary attacker and the body will prepare for another round of battle against the allergen intruder. Dr. Dean says that nasal allergy symptoms, both indoor and environmental, can be intensified by asthma and eczema. By treating those conditions first, it may relieve the symptoms of nasal allergies caused by allergens.
As always, keep a bottle of DayClear Allergy stocked in the medicine cabinet to treat the onset of allergy symptoms. DayClear works liquid fast to start alleviating those symptoms right away and is an essential part of keeping indoor allergies at bay.