Over the last few weeks, we’ve begun to feel winter’s chill. Fires have been lit, we’ve started wearing our winter clothes, and we’ve been staying in more to avoid the cold.
Winter can be a welcome relief for those who suffer from outdoor allergies. But for some, as we are driven indoors with cooler weather and shorter days, other allergens such as pet dander, dust, dust mites, and mold are just beginning. These allergens can trigger your asthma and allergies to flare up.
Winter allergies have nothing to do with the climate outside. Yes, the colder air can cause your asthma to flare up, but when you look at the allergens associated with winter allergies, you realize it’s more about indoor allergies.
So, what can you do to alleviate symptoms caused by indoor allergens (other than going outside in the cold)?
- First, use a humidifier/dehumidifier.
After a hot, humid summer, drier air is a welcome change for many. However, mold, mildew, and dust allergens also dry up when the air is drier. They become airborne and can affect your allergies and trigger an asthma attack when this happens. Drier air can also affect your skin and cause skin-related allergies like dry skin or scaly skin.
Air that is too humid can encourage mold and dust mites to thrive, so it’s important to remember that balance is critical. A humidity level below 50% keeps mold growth at bay, and dust mites cannot thrive in climates with lower humidity. Most recommend humidity levels between 40-50%. This humidity level is high enough to prevent most skin irritants but low enough to discourage dust mites.
Another thing to remember is to routinely clean the filter and canister of your humidifier to remove mold that it has attracted. Otherwise, you may be defeating the purpose.
- Regularly wash bedding, curtains, and pillows in hot water
If you have allergies, you may need to wash your bedding more often than once a week. This is especially true if you have pets and they sleep in your bed, either with you or while you are out. If this is the case, you may need to wash your bedding every 3-4 days.
We recommend that you wash your laundry in hot water. Washing in hot water (140 F°) kills 100% of dust mites while washing laundry at 86 F° to 104 F° kills only about 6% of dust mites.
Washing your pillows is essential as well. If it’s been more than six months since you’ve washed them, it’s time. How you wash them depends on the type of pillow you have. We recommend reading the instructions on the tag you weren’t supposed to tear off that comes with your pillow.
We don’t recommend dry cleaning because of the toxins used in that process, but professional cleaning is recommended and can be a lot easier on your washer and dryer.
Curtains should be cleaned every three to six months. They can attract dust and absorb odors over time. Window blinds are dust, dirt, grease, and pet hair collectors. Monthly dusting can help prevent indoor allergy flare ups.
- Use allergy-proof covers on mattresses, pillows, and comforters
Hypoallergenic pillow and mattress cover provide a physical barrier to dust mites. A regular pillow and a mattress cover provide protection and help these items last longer, but they won’t help with your allergies. A mattress cover for your box springs is also recommended.
You only need to wash your mattress cover once or twice a year unless something is spilled on them. It’s also recommended that your pillows be completely replaced every two years and your mattress every ten.
- Dust and vacuum frequently
Routine cleaning of your home that includes dusting and vacuuming will go a long way towards reducing pesky allergens. Keeping your home at a lower humidity prevents mold and dust mites from thriving. Once you set up a routine, maintaining a home with reduced allergens is easy.
Winter doesn’t last long, especially in Central Florida, but these tips will help make your time inside more pleasant.