10 Tips for Taming Winter Allergies

winter allergiesWhile spending more time indoors this winter may keep you safe from frigid temperatures, ice and snow, it can also increase your exposure to harmful indoor allergens which, according to allergy expert Dr. Joan Lehach, may trigger cold and flu-like symptoms.

“If you experience more than nine days of continuing congestion, coughing, sneezing, watery eyes and nasal drip, chances are good that you are reacting to the presence of either dust mites, cockroaches, animal dander, or mold somewhere in your home, office or school,” reports Dr. Joan Lehach, integrative medicine physician specializing in allergy, asthma and clinical immunology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. “Many times, and especially in the inner city where populations are dense, all four of these allergens are present and must be addressed.”

How can you cut to the chase and control your winter allergy symptoms? Dr. Lehach recommends the following 10 tips:

  1. Inspect for Mold
    Shower curtains – wallpaper – carpeting – sinks – drains – dark, moist places such as these are notorious for harboring mold. Start controlling your allergy symptoms by first inspecting your home for mold, and then removing it with a little bleach, detergent and H2O.
  2. Hunt for Cockroaches
    Studies suggest that cockroach allergens are present in at least half of inner-city homes and nearly three-quarters of inner-city schools. That’s a lot of cockroaches! And they don’t have to be alive to trigger allergy symptoms – just breathing in dust containing molecules of their dead carcasses is enough. Consult with a professional pest-removal company to rid your home of cockroach colonies. Don’t forget to clean nesting areas and places where cockroaches frequent thoroughly.
  3. Dehydrate Dust Mites
    Dust mites thrive in humid environments. Keep your indoor humidity at 50% or lower to prevent them from breeding.  What’s more, vacuum carpets and cloth furniture frequently and wash linens in hot water once a week.
  4. Keep Animal Dander at Bay
    Animal dander doesn’t only come from your indoor pets; mice or other furry creatures living in and around your home can also create a problem. If you’re allergic to animals, consult with an allergy specialist to become de-sensitized. Meanwhile, place an indoor air purifier with a HEPA filter in each room of your home to prevent the spread of airborne animal dander.
  5. Seek Symptom Relief
    Talk to your physician about which medications or herbal supplements work best for treating your allergy symptoms. Dr. Lehach recommends “Rootology” a mixture of sinus-friendly Chinese herbs said to temporarily halt allergy symptoms in less than 20 minutes.
  6. Consider an Immune-Boosting Diet
    According to Dr. Lehach, a diet high in processed and packaged foods weakens the immune system.  Eat a variety of immune-boosting, allergy fighting foods, such as blackberries and blueberries, instead. To derive more nutrients from the foods you eat, Dr. Lehach recommends taking a daily multivitamin supplement and digestive enzymes, as well.
  7. Get Plenty of Sleep
    A tired immune system is also a weak one; a weakened immune system precipitates allergies. Be sure to get 8 hours of quality sleep every night.
  8. Stay Well-Hydrated
    When you’re dehydrated, the lining of your nasal mucosa becomes dry and cracked making it easier for allergens to enter your bloodstream. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, drink eight, 8 ounce glasses of water every day.
  9. Wash Linens on “Hot”
    Neutralize allergens by washing your linens and bedding in hot water (at least 130 degrees) at least once a week.
  10. Keep Your Face and Hands Squeaky Clean
    Pet dander, mold and dust love to collect on surfaces, including your face and hands. To avoid inhaling these pesky particles, wash your face and hands frequently.

Dr. Joan Lehach is an integrative medicine physician specializing in allergy, asthma, and clinical immunology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. She has 27 years of experience treating patients in the New York City area and has the largest solo asthma and allergy practice in the Bronx.  Named by US News and World Report as one of the top physicians in New York, she lectures extensively on allergy and asthma and has helped design asthma protocols for a number of health plans. For more information about Dr. Lehach, visit www.joanlehachmd.com.


Author: Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN


Image: Flickr, mcfarlandmo, Sneeze

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