Environmental allergies don’t go away with the first frost. Cooler weather means more time indoors, and the air in your house may do more to aggravate your allergies than springtime pollen. The holidays bring special challenges to allergy suffers when decorations come out of the attic and evergreen boughs scent the air.
Is it a cold or allergies?
A stuffy, runny nose, sneezing and coughing can indicate you’ve come down with the common cold. However, these symptoms may also be signs your immune system is responding to allergens in your environment. How can you tell the difference? If your symptoms appear every spring and early fall, and lessen when you change environments, such as spending a few hours in a shopping mall, you most likely are suffering from allergies. The common cold usually clears up in three to 10 days, while allergies may hang on for weeks.
A drop in outdoor temperature brings a drop in indoor air quality
With the windows shut against cold (and fresh) air and heating systems kicked into high gear, the air quality in your home deteriorates. To combat this assault of allergens, the EPA recommends regular dusting and vacuuming. Wash bedding with hot water and dry completely once a week. Keep pets off upholstered furniture, and ban smokers to the outdoors.
Mold and mildew are more likely to form in closed up, humid spaces. Use exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen, and a dehumidifier if your house is particularly damp. Many of the chemicals in cleaning products can trigger an allergic response. Look for “green” products, which are identified with the Safer Choice label, to eliminate this problem.
Keeping the achoo out of your Yule
As you prepare to deck the halls, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology offers these suggestions to keep holiday allergens in check:
- Evergreens — pine oil contains terpene, which can trigger allergies. Additionally, your fresh-cut Christmas tree may come with some mold. Before bringing trees, wreaths and garlands into your home, hose them down and leave them in a covered outdoor space, such as a porch or garage, to dry. Use a leaf blower to remove any lingering pollen from cedars and junipers.
- Holiday decorations — items that have been in storage over the past year need to be dusted and, if there is evidence of mold, washed. When repacking after the holiday, clean and store decorations in an airtight container to make less work next year.
- The ambiance — if your holiday decorating includes scented candles, potpourri and scented sprays, be aware that these may also trigger allergic reactions. Artificial snow that you spray from an aerosol can may also contribute to degraded air quality.
The best thing you can do for your health is relax and enjoy your family and friends. Stress weakens your immune system. If your to-do list is too long, grab a pen and start crossing off tasks that aren’t essential. Use the time you’ve saved to bundle up and head outdoors for a romp in the fresh air.