Some people think of spring, summer, and fall as the worst seasons for allergies and asthma, but for many allergy sufferers, winter brings its own challenges and troubles. We spend more time indoors, cooped up with the pet dander, dust mites, mold, and pests that we otherwise get respite from during the warmer months outside.
As anyone with winter allergies can attest, you feel sick from Halloween all the way to St. Patrick’s Day with runny nose, watery eyes, coughing, sneezing, congestion, and sinus pain. Many people think they’re just magnets for colds, but in reality, it’s not a series of never-ending viruses—their chronic misery is actually the result of a home filled with allergens.
And it’s not just the extended exposure time that makes winter allergies difficult—it’s the always-closed windows, the trapped moisture, and the furnaces blasting impure recycled air that all contribute to an allergen-rife environment.
This leads to a common question: am I supposed to open my windows or not? The answer is… it depends on the weather.
In the warmer months, it’s advised to keep windows closed in order to prevent pollen from coming in, as well as to maintain lower humidity levels to inhibit mold growth and dust mite proliferation. But in the winter, the opposite is true—cracking a window is advisable during cooler temperatures. Particularly in the drier Northern climates, open windows will actually decrease humidity levels in the home, while delivering the added benefit of circulating fresh air.
There are other special allergen considerations in the winter months, such as with holiday decorations. Take care when pulling out boxes of holiday decorations, looking for signs of water damage or visible mold. If possible, open boxes outside to allow accumulated dust to escape, or at least do the unpacking in an open area with tile or hardwood floors. Wipe down ornaments and decorations with water and soap. Once the decorations are up, vacuum right away to prevent any remaining dust and mold spores from settling into the home environment.
Here are some other tips to lessen the severity of winter allergies:
- Aim to keep the indoor humidity level in the 35-40% range.
- Have your air ducts cleaned every three to five years.
- Wash your bedsheets (in hot water!) about once a week.
- Declutter your home, getting rid of knickknacks and other items that collect dust.
- Dust the blades of your ceiling fans.
- Vacuum regularly with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtered vacuum.
Those tactics only go so far, though. Truly remedying winter allergies requires knowing what you’re allergic to, and determining the concentration of allergens in your home environment. Without both pieces of the puzzle, it’s impossible to know whether your remediation efforts are working, or even whether you’re focusing on the right things. The steps you might take to eliminate dust mites are different from what you would do to attack mold, for instance. Or, you may think your allergies are reacting to dog dander, when in fact you have a hidden pest problem to address.
By conducting a home Exhale Allergen Test, you’ll identify the allergens most prevalent in your home that are making you and your loved ones sick. Just as important, you’ll receive a personalized action plan to get rid of them. An Exhale remediation specialist will walk you through the test results, helping you prioritize key actions and connect you to resources to fix the problem once and for all.