Winter is a tough season for people with mold and dust allergies. Spending more time indoors in the winter often brings about heightened reactions to pet dander, dust mites, household sprays and chemicals, smoke, and gas fumes. The following tips will minimize mold growth and dust accumulation, making the winter months more enjoyable for everyone.
- Run the exhaust fan while showering and cooking
Running the exhaust fan during or immediately following a shower or meal prep takes excess humidity out of the air and helps remove unwanted odors. When you've finished a shower, dry the wet surfaces in the bathroom to prevent mold growth.
- Clean the floors regularly
Mop and vacuum your floors regularly to cut down on the spread of dust mites and pet allergens. Mopping instead of sweeping will help you avoid stirring up dust. Consider purchasing a HEPA vacuum for maximum efficiency. Designate these cleaning tasks to family members who don't suffer from allergy symptoms in the winter.
- Wash your hands frequently
Wash your hands after you've returned from a public outing to reduce the transmission of common winter illnesses and after playing with pets to minimize allergen exposure.
- Minimize allergy triggers in the bedrooms
Limiting allergy triggers in the bedroom minimizes the allergens you take in while sleeping, keeping you feeling better during the day. Remove rugs, carpeting, and plants, and keep the pets out of the bedrooms. Steer clear of down pillows and comforters, which naturally attract dust mites, and cover your pillows and mattresses in allergen covers to further reduce allergen exposure. Launder your bedding and pajamas in hot water (at or above 130 degrees) to kill dust mites.
- Install high-efficiency furnace filters
Before you run the furnace for the first time in the winter, clean the heating ducts and filters. If you don't feel comfortable cleaning the system yourself, hire a professional. During the winter, install high-efficiency furnace filters and change them once a month. Run the furnace fan as well.
- Keep the interior humidity level in the 30-40 percent range
Depending on the natural humidity level in your home, it may be beneficial to install a humidifier or dehumidifier during the winter to maintain this optimal humidity range. When you run the humidifier, follow the manufacturer's instructions for changing the water and filters to avoid mold and bacteria contamination.
- Spray down the live Christmas tree
If you opt to display a live Christmas tree during the holiday season, spray it down with a hose before taking it into the house. Dust off ornaments before hanging them on the tree to further minimize allergy irritation.
- Assess the entire property for mold growth
Once a month, survey the whole property for signs of visible mold and areas that may be at a high risk for mold growth, such as a musty basement or firewood stacked against the house. When the weather allows for it, open a door or window briefly, particularly after you've cleaned. Opening up the house following cleaning gives the dust and other allergens you've stirred up a place to escape.
If your allergies are acting up more than usual or you have other concerns about your allergies, talk to your health care provider or see a specialist. They may be able to prescribe medication and offer additional tips to alleviate your allergy symptoms.
About Allergist John Moore, MD
At a young age, Dr. Moore suffered from allergies. This personal experience has allowed him to better understand patients and their life limitations due to allergic illness. Helping patients overcome that life changing diagnosis is very rewarding to him as a specialist.
Dr. Moore is board certified in Allergy and Immunology as well as a Diplomate of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine. His practice includes the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma, and other diseases of the immune system, with a special interest in allergies. His goal is to help patients live life without allergy and asthma limitations and achieve wellness to minimize the number of medications necessary.
For more information or to make an appointment with Moore, call Osceola Medical Center at 715-294-2111.