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How to help fall, winter allergies

Posted at 11:53 AM, Sep 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-19 13:58:59-04

Dr. Heidi Zafra, a pediatric allergist with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin offered the following tips about dealing with fall and winter allergies.

"As it cools down outside and we begin to close up the house for fall and winter, we can say goodbye to the pollen causing our allergies to flare up in the summer. But we welcome in different allergens like dust and pet dander. While we can’t completely avoid the dust stirred up by turning on the heat for the first time or the pet dander we’re shut in the house with, there are some things parents can do to recognize the symptoms and minimize the effects," Zafra said in a news release.

Recognizing the symptoms

— These symptoms will increase right after closing up the house and turning on the heat, and may flare up after a day of cleaning as that can stir up dust particles.

— Be on the lookout for an increase in sneezing, clear nasal drainage, extra fatigue, an itchy nose or mouth, and watering or red, itchy eyes.

— Dust mites are the most common cause of allergy from house dust and are a common cause of asthma in children.

— While all of those symptoms are certainly irritating, a much more serious effect of allergies can be an asthma attack. This happens when the lining of the airways becomes inflamed, causing the surrounding muscles to constrict. Breathing becomes more difficult, even painful, and can produce a whistling or wheezing sound as air rushes through the narrowed passages. Watch for rapid, labored breathing and coughing.

What you can do

Here are some tips to keep the effects of allergies and asthma at bay as much as possible:

  • Cover mattresses, box springs and bed pillows with special covers. The covers are sometimes called dust mite covers, allergy proof bedding, mite covers or anti-allergen covers.
  • Wash all bedding weekly. This includes sheets, pillows, mattress pads and stuffed toys. Use hot water (130°F).
  • Vacuum all carpets, rugs and upholstered furniture at least once a week.
  • Keep humidity level in house below 50%. Use a dehumidifier if needed.
  • Remove curtains, blinds, books and toys from the bedroom areas. This will help reduce dust levels.
  • If possible remove, or do not install wall-to-wall carpeting. This is most helpful in the bedroom areas.
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom. Do not sleep with a pet.
  • Bathe and/or brush pets often.
  • Do not touch your face or eyes after handling a pet.
  • Wash hands after handling pets.
  • Keep pets off upholstered furniture.
  • Use HEPA air filters in areas where pets spend the most time.
  • Be sure to take medications as prescribed by your doctor.

If your child has allergies or asthma — or you suspect that he or she does — consult your child’s doctor, allergist or pulmonologist. Your pediatrician can treat many general cases, but there may be situations in which your child would be referred to a specialist.