Imagine your ideal winter.
You’re probably picturing crisp, icy mornings, towns covered in Christmas lights, and winding down in front of the fireplace after a long day. You can almost smell the sweet, festive aromas that fill your home in the colder months.
But how can you truly enjoy the wonderful smell of pine trees and holiday cookies when your nose is stuffed up and your sinuses are plagued by seasonal allergies?
Outdoors, allergens are everywhere – and the dry winter air limit’s your body’s natural ability to fight them off. While seasonal allergies may feel unavoidable, there are several ways you can make your home an allergy-free zone so you can enjoy your favorite holiday smells again.
What Causes Seasonal Allergies?
Allergies are a result of your body reacting to foreign particles that enter your eyes or respiratory system. As you breathe in all that lovely fresh air, allergens flow in as well and irritate your sinuses.
Seasonal allergies are also known as allergic rhinitis. If your allergies are severe enough, you may suffer from conjunctivitis of the eye. Allergic asthma is another common byproduct of severe seasonal allergies, which causes tightening of the airways, wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath.
The most common culprit of seasonal allergies is pollen, which can come from grasses, trees, and other plants. If you live in a dry, windy area (hello, Lubbock!), those gusts may carry dust that can easily aggravate your eyes and sinuses.
Another common cause of allergies is mold. During the fall and winter months, you can find mold outside in piles of wet leaves, moist grass, and shady damp areas. Mold can also grow inside your home, especially during the colder months when we tend to keep our homes sealed up tight for warmth.
When you encounter pollen, mold, or dust, your immune system fights back by releasing a histamine. Histamines act like neurotransmitters within your immune system. They cause your body to produce all those unpleasant symptoms we associate with allergies, like a runny nose, itchy eyes, and constant sneezing.
While histamines may seem like the enemy here, they’re actually trying to save you from the foreign invader by expelling the allergen from your body.
Can Seasonal Allergies Happen in Winter?
Unfortunately, seasonal allergies aren’t limited to the spring months. While most plants do not produce pollen in the winter, there are several other allergens guilty of causing your seasonal allergies in fall and winter.
With the doors and windows closed tight and the heater working overtime as temperatures approach freezing, indoor allergens from dust mites, indoor mold, and dander (dead skin) circulate throughout your home.
Your body naturally produces mucus, which serves as a defense mechanism within your sinuses. However, the dry winter air can dry out your sinuses and give those seasonal allergies the conditions they need to flourish.
Preventing Seasonal Allergies
There’s not much we can do about the outside air – beyond stocking up on your favorite non-drowsy antihistamine, of course. Inside your home, though, you’re in charge.
Make Home a No-Allergen Zone
During those gorgeous, crisp winter days, it can be tempting to open a few windows to let in some of that invigorating air. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, resist. Open doors and windows invite in the allergens that can aggravate allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma.
Try as we might to keep the doors and windows sealed up tight, we inevitably have to come and go from our homes on a daily basis – and this is when those pesky allergens sneak in. Dramatic temperature changes between the outdoor air and your cozy home cause drafts that carry allergens into your environment.
To minimize the amount of allergens in your home, enter and exit through a passageway that you can close on both ends, such as a laundry room or your garage, if possible. This will serve as a trap for those annoying allergens and minimize your seasonal allergies inside your home.
Keeping a tidy home can go a long way toward reducing indoor seasonal allergies. While you likely don’t have time to do a floor to ceiling cleaning (especially during the holidays!), there are a few measures you can put in place to keep allergies at bay.
According to the expert allergists at Central Texas Allergy & Asthma, to minimize seasonal allergies, you should:
- Vacuum your floors regularly
- Dust common surfaces to prevent allergens from settling in the rooms you frequent most
- Wash your bedding, comforters, and pillows frequently
- Wrap difficult to wash items like mattresses and box springs in allergen-proof fabric
Unless allergens start bringing you holiday gifts, they’re not welcome in your home. By adding these preventive measures to your routine, you can dramatically reduce your seasonal allergy suffering.
Clean Air Is Healthy Air
Of course, with even the most watchful eye, some allergens inevitably find their way into your home. To catch and get rid of indoor allergens, use an air filtration system such as a filter-based or PCO air purifier.
Allergy experts recommend air purifiers for individuals who suffer from seasonal allergies because they have been shown to reduce allergens in the air by up to 99.97%, according to the Standard for Safety for High-Efficiency, Particulate, Air (HEPA) Filter Units.
If seasonal allergies keep you from smelling all the wonderful things this winter, put these tips to work and enjoy some relief. Then go enjoy all those holiday treats with clear sinuses and open lungs.
As always, if you have questions about the quality of the air in your home, we’re here to help. Contact us today for information on indoor air quality assessments, mold assessments, and home air purification options.
Have tips of your own for keeping your home an allergy-free zone? Share them with us in the comments below!