Winter Allergies

Posted by kevvyg on Friday, January 09, 2015
Extreme Temperatures Spells Trouble For Those With AsthmaThe last few days have been like a sucker punch to much of the country. Extreme cold, and in some places heavy snow, have ushered in the new year in a way most of us would rather just forget. In addition to concern over the colder temperatures, the dropping mercury presents some specific challenges for people with asthma. Go outside, and the cold, dry air can often trigger an asthma attack. Stay indoors and increase exposure to indoor allergens, which are generally more pervasive during the cold months as most homes have little chance to air out when it's freezing. And when simply going outside can trigger an asthma attack, it all but rules out trying to exercise outdoors. So what options do you have? Here are a few tips to help reduce your chances of an asthma attack during these frigid days.
  • Dress Appropriately - Few things will cause you more problems than not dressing appropriately. Dressing Appropriately Is a MustIn addition to simply being uncomfortable, extreme cold temperatures can lead things like frostbite and hypothermia. Granted, these are extremes, but when a stiff breeze drives the wind chill well below zero, these become real concerns.

  • Wear a Mask - Whether going for a stroll or trying to exercise outdoors, breathing in cold, dry air is an almost instant trigger for asthma. The cold air coupled with the extreme dryness of cold air can be mitigated with a quality cold weather mask. Masks trap heat and moisture as you exhale, which means as you inhale, some of this trapped heat and moisture warms and humidifies the air you breathe in. Simple but effective, a cold weather mask can make all the difference when outdoors during the winter.

  • Remember Your Medication - Many people with asthma take a daily preventative, and during cold weather, it becomes even more paramount to maintain this regimen. Additionally, rescue inhalers should always be on hand, particularly if you are exercising. Being cooped up indoors is often not much better, but by maintaining your medication and cleaning the home regularly to remove allergens, you can reduce reactions.

  • Maintain Proper Indoor Humidity - If you've spent time outdoors in freezing temperatures, few things refresh you and help you clear out your airways better than a hot shower. Why? Returning Moisture To the Air You Breathe Is Critical in Preventing Asthma AttacksThe warmth and the humidity soothe dried airways and help loosen mucus that has cooled and settled in your airways. Beyond a warm shower, maintaining proper indoor humidity levels can keep your home comfortable and eliminate dry air that aggravates asthma, and the easiest way to accomplish this is with a room humidifier. They come in a variety of styles and sizes and offer warm or cool mist to restore moisture and soothe airways.

While none of these things can fully prevent an asthma attack. They all can greatly reduce the risk of triggering an attack during these cold months. For more information as to why your nose runs more in cold weather, check out our recent post.

Author: KevvyG

Posted by kevvyg on Tuesday, November 18, 2014
If you spend any amount of time outdoors, particularly during the winter when the temperatures and dip to around or below freezing, you may notice your nose changes. Normally our noses range in function (or dysfunction!) from an odd looking feature that sits squarely When It's Cold, My Nose Doesn't Get Red?!? in the middle of our face, doing little beyond taking up space or generally getting in the way to smelling all manners of things, acting as the doorway to our respiratory system, filtering air, and holding up our glasses. During the winter, you may notice two changes that your nose undergoes. Let's take a closer look at why your nose get red in cold weather, and why your nose turns into a faucet of clear mucus.

First, let's take a look at why your nose is so festive when it's cold out. We all can't be body doubles for Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, but if you're standing at the bus stop on a cold day, it may appear that we're all headed to the same audition. As the temperature dips, the body's natural response is to warm things back up. The initial response from your body is to send extra blood to the extremities that are cold. This extra blood fills the tiny blood vessels in your nose and gives it that red hue. The same is true for your hands, at least initially.

If the internal temperature in your hands and feet dips too much, the body literally goes into survival mode and begins to cut its losses. Retaining its core temperature becomes priority number one and the process of vasoconstriction begins. ...And You Think Water is Pouring Out of YOUR Nose! Vasoconstriction is when the body begins to decrease blood flow to the extremities in an effort to reduce heat loss at the extremities and retain heat in the core. Before we get too far off track, lets circle back again to the nose.

The other common change your nose undergoes in cold weather is that it may begin to mimic a leaky faucet. Like the steady drip of poor plumbing, your nose will start dripping clear fluid. Yes Virginia, it's mucus. Normally, mucus serves two purposes. First, it humidifies the air you breathe, adding much needed moisture to air before it reaches the lungs. Second, it filters the air. In moderate temperatures mucus is constantly being produced and constantly moving, but when the mercury falls, it thickens and moves very slowly or ceases movement at all. While your river of mucus may have stopped moving, the body keeps producing it, and with nowhere to go, it begins to drip out of your nose.

You can take some solace with both of these things. First, you hardly notice a red nose. If you're outside in the cold with others, you'll all be freezing your noses off, and there's nothing like sharing when it comes to misery! As far as your runny nose goes, many times you don't notice this either, as the cold numbs the nose, deadening out the ability for you to even feel that inevitable drip, drip, drip.

So, you've decided a red nose or dripping nose isn't for you, eh? Cold Weather Mask - Warms and Conveniently Hides Cold, Red, and Drippy Noses Last time I checked, I'm not a polar bear, and while some of us may have issues with excessive body hair, we simply can't compete with cold weather. There are a couple things you can do to help with this, and the easiest is to get out of the cold. If you have to be outside, get a mask. A cold weather mask can be a great way to trap moisture and warmth around your face and nose, not only reducing the potential of cold weather induced asthma but making the frigid air you're breathing much more manageable. Frequent breaks and warm liquids are also good ideas.

This.... Is Probably NOT My Best IdeaAt this point, I would suggest a ski mask, but there might be at least one drawback to this. Unless you're on the slopes, you may give your neighbors the wrong impression. With daylight savings time pushing sunset back earlier and earlier, nothing says "Hello, neighbor!" like jogging around the neighborhood, at night in a nice, warm ski mask! (To Mr. Phelps and his Yorkie - I'm sorry!!) For people who regularly work out in cold temperatures, there is an upside. After repeated exposure to colder temperatures, the body will acclimate through the process of habituation (though don't think that drippy and red nose is going anywhere).

In conclusion, it is likely time we accept that we're not penguins with hands or woolly mammoths sans trunks and tusks. No, we're humans, who get cold, red, runny noses. Go inside, have some hot coco and read another one of my blog posts! Or look at cat pictures... because at this point, I'm too cold to care.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Monday, January 20, 2014
Wet Conditions Early, Making Cedar Pollen Season Miserable NowIt's winter time, and while many of us are struggling with bouts of bitter cold and snow, for some this is prime allergy season. It may seem counterintuitive for allergies, especially any type of pollen allergies, to be worse during the winter months, but one type in particular causes problems for many through the winter months. Making matters worse is that many mistake their allergies for a cold or the flu. (Like something out of an old comic strip, "Is it a cold? Is it the flu? No, it's cedar allergies!") So what's aggravating your allergies? If you live in the Southwest, it could very likely be cedar.

Cedar or mountain cedar pollen is actually a type of Juniper. These trees often soak up summer and fall rains then in December and January begin releasing pollen. With rains being heavier than usual throughout much of the South, the cedar pollen levels are higher than usual in places like North and Central Texas.

Like many allergies, cedar pollen can produce symptoms that are often mistaken for the cold or flu. Runny nose, headache, and sneezing are all common with cedar pollen allergies. While these often typify the common cold, check with your allergist or physician if these symptoms are persistent. For those thinking they have a touch of the flu, do you notice a fever or severe body aches? If neither of these are present, then you're likely dealing with a cold or allergies, not the flu.

Coping with cedar allergies can be a tough task, particularly with higher than usual pollen counts and winds spreading the allergen far and wide. One avoidance measure you can take is using an allergy mask. Thiscan help to block the pollen, and all masks do retain some heat, so during the colder winter months, they can also help cut down on cold weather induced asthma. Not many people have their windows open this time of year but think about replacing your HVAC filter. This can help to keep dust and pollen levels down in the home. Check with your allergist or doctor. If you've skipped by some preventative measures and find yourself feeling miserable, your doctor can help. From allergy shots to antihistamines, there are a variety of treatments available to help get you feeling better sooner.

For more information of juniper pollen.

Author: K. Gilmore

Posted by kevvyg on Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Well yesterday I had written a very nice, long post about winter time allergies, but alas, technology was not kind to me at all yesterday. So here is take two.

Over the last couple of weeks, it has become increasingly apparent that the calendar has clearly forgot to tell the weather that winter doesn't officially start for a couple more weeks. Snow Sends People Inside... Unless You're TenWith all but six states in the U.S. having snow on the ground, it is a safe bet that there are a lot more people spending time indoors. During this time of year, it is actually common for people to experience worse allergy and asthma symptoms. Though most offending plants are dead or nearly dead, mold spore counts can be high from decaying fall foliage, cold weather induced asthma ramps up, and lower humidity inside your home can mean more dust. Because most modern homes are very tightly sealed, indoor pollutants and allergens build, so for some, the more time you spend indoors, the worse your allergies seem to get. Keeping all of this in mind, here are some top-to-bottom tips to get your home allergy ready for winter.
  • Furnace Filters - Starting in most people's basement, the furnace or HVAC filter is often the first line of defense against dust and other indoor allergens. Ductwork can be a hotbed for dust, pollen and microbes, and firing up the furnace for the first time can flush all of this out into the air you breathe. Traditional furnace filters should be changed at least every three months. Generally by this point, they've filtered all they can really hold and are likely seriously impeding air flow. If you have a permanent or semi-permanent filter, like a Permatron, now is a good time to rinse/wash it. Either way, cleaning or replacing your furnace filter is a good first step in reducing indoor allergens.

  • Laundry - Do you use any sort of anti-allergen detergents or laundry additives? It is a good idea to stock up. Things like wearing layers, having family visit/stay with you, and unpacking winter clothes or winter bedding can all contribute to a lot more laundry. And for those things that may have been in storage, like your winter comforter or favorite "ugly sweater," Washing them before you first use is always a good way to get rid of any dust or odor they may have picked up.

  • Fireplace or Burning Wood - Though I'm not sure how many people still grow up like I did, primarily heating your home with wood, wood burners and fireplaces can quickly foul up the air in a house. From not properly managing the draft and flue to simply needing to have the chimney cleaned, there can be a variety of causes of this. A mask with carbon and air purifiers can help with some of this, particularly when you're starting or stoking a fire.

  • Replacing Air Purifier Filters - The times when you need to replace your air purifier filters will vary. Some filters last years, like an Austin Air filter, while other may only last you a couple months, like 3M Filtrete filter. For air purifiers to keep your indoor air clean, overlooking filter replacement can present a serious roadblock. Check your user's manual, or if it's a model you've purchased from us, check out site to see when you need to replace the filter. Keeping your HEPA filter current can really help in reducing allergens in your bedroom and throughout your home.

  • Pets - As you spend more time indoors, so to do your pets. This can mean more hair, more dander, and more sneezing! Regular baths help, but bathing too frequently can cause more problems than what you solve. Humidity levels are generally lower during the winter, so more frequent baths can strip away the oils that your pet produces to keep its skin and fur healthy as well as lead to things like doggie-dandruff and lot of itching and scratching. In between baths, things like pet wipes and AllerPet can really make a difference. AllerPet denatures the proteins found in dander to neutralize these allergens without bathing. Pet wipes are a quick and handy way to cleanse away loose pet hair and dander from your pet's winter coat. And don't forget to brush! Winter coats are often thicker, and this can mean more pet hair floating around your home.

  • Extra Mattress or Duvet Covers are Handy for PetsBedding - Many of us put our winter clothing and bedding away when spring rolls around, and when you dig it out for winter, it can sometimes be dusty, have an odor, or best of all, have critters! For bedding and clothing that's been stored away, washing it before you use it can be very helpful. Comforters and blankets, in particular, can be hotbeds for dust mites, so once through the washer and dryer (with hot water and at high heat, respectively) can go a long way in keeping allergens out of your bed. Additionally, if you're like me and enjoy having a foot warmer during winter, (also known as my dog) an extra dust mite mattress or duvet cover simply thrown over your bedding can block the dander and the pet hair that your furry friends often carries.

  • Vacuum - If you have a replaceable HEPA filter, when was the last time you checked it? Generally about one year is all the use you get from a vacuum HEPA filter, and often if you are noticing odor when you are vacuuming it can be because you need to replace the filter or the dust bag. Replacing these components at regular intervals can not only keep the surfaces and the air in your home cleaner (provided you have a sealed system, certified HEPA vacuum), but also reduce strain on the motor and keep this handy home appliance performing at its best.

Now, there are more things you can do to reduce winter time allergens, like using a home humidifier to keep the relative humidity comfortable (also helps to keep airborne dust levels down), but these are a good place to start. If you want to sum this up, winter time is basically a really good time to check up on and maintain the things in your home that reduce indoor allergens. By keeping them in good working order, they can each do their job effectively and help to make your time indoors easier.

Author: KevvyG

Posted by kevvyg on Thursday, January 05, 2012
Pile of Leaves Missing Its Winter CoatThis winter has been an odd one for many parts of the U.S. Unlike last year when Atlanta experienced several inches of snow and colder than average temperatures, this past December was punctuated by nearly a weeks worth of temperatures in the 70’s - literally 20 degrees warmer than average! This pattern has not just held true here in the South, but all over the U.S.

Aside from ski resorts having to make more snow than usual, another effect of these warmer than average temperatures is an increase in mold allergies this winter. Normally, cold temperatures and snow stunt mold growth. So in places where rotting fall foliage produces massive amounts of mold spores, snow usually stops the growth and blankets the spores. But with little to no snowfall, mold sources are foregoing their usual pattern of winter hibernation.

While mold is more prevalent, the warmer temps generally mean people are not spending as much time as they normally do indoors. The combination of these two factors has led to many allergists seeing an increase in the number of patients coming in during what are traditionally slower months.

Luckily, there are several effective ways to reduce your likelihood of having to visit the allergist with the best solution being nasal irrigation. It does not matter what type of irrigation that you use (bottle, neti pot, pulsing irrigator) since all will rinse away allergens, like mold spores, that can accumulate in your nasal passages.

By rinsing in the morning and evening you can not only wash away allergens that cause sneezing, watery eyes and other symptoms, but irrigating during the winter months is also a great way to combat the symptoms of low indoor humidity. For an economical solution, try a bottle rinse kit or neti pot. For those looking for a more versatile product with expanded features, the Sinupulse Nasal Irrigator can be a great choice.

Author: KevvyG

Posted by Shifrah on Monday, December 05, 2011

Winter is a time when allergens tend to build up in record amounts in your home. People and pets spend more time indoors, and homes are sealed tight against the elements. In addition, forced air heating systems make nasal and respiratory passages particularly susceptible to allergy symptoms and complications like sinus infections.

This is why allergy sufferers must pay special attention to their cleaning routines during winter months. Getting rid of the excess of dust mite allergen, mold spores, pet dander and other allergens that tend to build up during this time of year can prevent excessive winter allergy attacks.

Vacuuming is a mainstay of any cleaning regimen, and of course of an allergy avoidance cleaning routine. Following are some vacuuming tips to help you get the most benefit from the time you spend cleaning:

Vacuum top to bottom. Using your machine to dust prevents you from stirring up dust into your breathing zone. Use attachments to dust items like blinds and bookshelves. Starting at the "top" of a room ensures that dust that the vacuum doesn't catch will get cleaned up as you move to the bottom of the room.
Vacuum in several directions. As tempting as it may be to form straight horizontal lines in your carpet, save this for the end. Vacuuming in varied directions ensures that the carpet pile is moved around enough to suck up the maximum amount of dirt and allergens.
Vacuum in short, slow strokes. Don't push and pull the vacuum fast. Instead, use slow strokes so that the suction spends time over each area of your carpet. Short strokes rather than long ones accomplish the same objective.
Invest in a quality HEPA vacuum cleaner that you enjoy using. If enjoying vacuuming is a stretch, just consider making vacuuming as little of a pain as possible – so that you are more likely to do it as often as possible. Features like the Dyson ball make twisting and turning as you vacuum a breeze. Miele vacuums actually purify the air as well as the best air purifiers while you vacuum, and the new line of mid-range machines make these Cadillacs of vacuum cleaners more affordable than ever.

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