No sneeze reprieve: Surprising cool-weather allergy triggers

(BPT) - When the weather cools and fall arrives, do you sigh in relief, assuming your allergies will settle down until spring? Don’t let your guard down so soon – fall and winter present unique risks for people with allergies and asthma.

If you don’t want asthma and allergy symptoms to ruin your the season, it’s important to know how to find and remove the allergens in your home and how to avoid bringing any more inside. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends you take steps to reduce allergens from these seasonal sources:

Things that burn

For some people, nothing strikes a more comfortable mood than a fire on a cool evening. Scented candles can make the season feel even more festive by filling the air with traditional aromas like spice, pumpkin and pine. But any combustion, whether it’s wood in your fireplace or a wick surrounded by perfumed wax, releases particles and gasses into the atmosphere. And for many people, those irritants can trigger asthma or allergy symptoms.

Never use an unvented or improperly vented combustion source in your home – it’s a safety hazard as well as a health one. Avoid wood fires and use battery-powered candles to create seasonal ambience, rather than burning scented candles.

Cleaning up your cleaning products

While it’s important to keep a clean house to reduce exposure to dust and dust mites – allergy triggers for many people – be careful of the cleaning products you use. Many can contain harsh chemicals that irritate airways, nasal passages and eyes. Others may not be as effective at reducing other known allergens. Look for more friendly cleaning products. AAFA’s asthma & allergy friendly Certification Program certifies cleaning products based on their ability to remove bio-allergens from surfaces, the amount of airborne allergens and other particles remaining after cleaning with the product, the product’s toxicological profile, and whether it emits volatile organic compounds or other particles that could be irritants.

Seasonal decorations

Some of the ornaments and decorations you use to give your home seasonal flare may be a source of triggers that cause your allergies to flare up, too. Seasonal decorations stored for 11 months in garages, attics or basements may accumulate mold and dust – both well-known triggers. If you decorate with live greenery, such as a fir tree or pine boughs, they can carry mold, pollen, dust and other allergens into your home. The same is true of the pumpkins, corn stalks, husks and leaves often used in seasonal decor.

Wipe seasonal ornaments with a damp cloth before hanging them, and be sure to discard real decorations as soon as they begin to show signs of mold or drying out.

Your best friends

The human members of your family aren’t the only ones who spend more time indoors when the weather cools. Pets are inside more often, too, and that can mean a buildup of dander inside the house. Brush and wipe pets regularly – at least once a week – to reduce dander, and bathe them regularly based on your vet’s advice for your breed. Use a certified vacuum cleaner and vacuum carpet weekly, and consider a certified steam cleaning service every three to four months, especially in areas frequented by pets or allergy-prone family members. Change furnace air filters quarterly or according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule.

Unwelcome gifts

Yes, even holiday gifts can be more trick than treat if they are dusty or have been treated with chemicals to preserve them. Some clothing and toy manufacturers use chemicals to keep pests off products. Always wash clothing articles before wearing them, and look for toys that have earned the AAFA’s asthma & allergy friendly certification. To learn more about the program, and to see certified products in other categories, visit www.aafa.org/certified.

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