Most people are familiar with the allergies that come with spring and summertime such as pollen, grass, and trees. It is this season that you see all the commercials of people with hay fever symptoms (sniffling, sneezing, coughing, watery eyes) frolicking through the grass and flowery meadows.
What some of us don’t realize is that we are also exposed to a lot of allergens during the winter time. Ask any person that suffers with eczema, allergies and asthma for that matter, and they will tell you that fall and winter pose a different threat to their disease when it comes to allergies.
There are other year round allergens to be aware of. During the winter months, most people stay indoors and are exposed to allergens that have been lurking there the whole time. With windows shut and the heating system on, these allergens are circulated throughout the house.
Some of these year round allergies include pollen, dust mites and dander.
· Pollens: Pollen from trees and grass float through the air in spring, summer and fall. Ragweed, is the most common allergen in the fall. This plant, in the daisy family, produces copious amounts of pollen that travel through the air from mid-August through early October or November in our area. Not only are people exposed to these pollens outdoors, but pollens hitch hike on you and your clothing, into the home, onto your furniture, and into your air vents.
· Dust mites: Dust Mites exist in every room of every home and building. They are found everywhere, but most commonly on bedding, pillows, and soft/fabric items. Proteins in the eggs and the waste product of these mites are the allergens that many people are allergic to. You can rid of these by laundering items regularly in very hot water and by vacuuming regularly.
· Dander: If you have pets in the home, your exposure to pet dander increases significantly as your pet spends more time in the home. Your exposure increases if your beloved pet sleeps in the bed with you! You can decrease the amount of pet dander in the home by washing your pet and vacuuming regularly.
Furnaces and heat pumps make a difference also. These ensure that warm air is pumped throughout the house, and whatever harbors in your air vent is pumped along with it (ie. pollen, dust, and dander). The National Eczema Association advises “against buying low efficiency, inexpensive air filters since they do a poor job of trapping ultrafine particles, which are the biggest culprits at triggering allergic and asthmatic reactions”.
You can look for CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly bedding, vacuums, furnace filters and other products by going to asthmaandallergyfriendly.com.
So, it appears that no season is safe when it comes to environmental allergens.
So why is this important? Some patients with allergies, asthma and or eczema have hypersensitive cells in the sinus tract, the lungs, and in the skin. Exposure to these allergies could trigger an allergy, asthma or eczema flare. Avoiding allergens, and other non-allergic triggers, is the best way to avoid having disease flares requiring medical attention.