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What's Up Magazine

No Rest for the Wheezy

Nov 04, 2014 01:31PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Allergies don’t go away with the warm weather

Some of us keep an eagle eye out for that much-appreciated first frost. That initial “hard freeze”—when temps dip below 26 degrees for at least four hours—is the official kiss-off to most allergy-causing pollen. Outdoors, that is. The interior assault, however, is just beginning.

Inside is the home turf of mold, smoky fireplaces, and the dreaded scented holiday candle. (Who ever thought bayberry was a good idea?) Cooler weather also brings out the warm woolies—and the itchy hives that go with them.

But by far, the worse allergy offenders in our hermetically sealed homes are dust—and those tiny creatures that inhabit it—and dander from those not so tiny creatures we adore.

We have no intention of showing one of those amazingly magnified images of dust mites looking like prehistoric creatures out of a bad 1960’s horror movie. But we all know they are there; unless you have kept your home cool and very dry: Mites don’t like humidity below 40–50 percent—they die. But it’s easy to extrapolate that in the dust mites’ favor when you picture them at home anywhere in the Chesapeake Region—a.k.a., humidity central.

So grab the HEPA-filtered vacuum and damp dusting clothes (they pick up more than the dry feather duster designs), change the bedding at least once a week, and wash that bedding in hot water at 130 degrees (great reason to buy all white sheets). Also consider throwing out that dust ruffle around your bed. (Doesn’t the name just say it all?)

Once you have that boudoir looking spick-and-span, don’t let your dog or cat back into that bed. This may be the hardest change to enact. How about making a standout separate bed for your pet? They have some irresistible designs and options these days—there’s even a little doggie four poster. Of course, remember to wash the pet bedding once a week, too. And that goes for the pets themselves. Bathe them as often as reasonable and ask your vet about pet-friendly shampoo for frequent use. (In between baths you can wipe down the pet with fragrance-free hypoallergenic baby wipes.)

It is also wise to keep clutter to a minimum in the entire home, and cut back on the upholstered furniture (do you really need 10 dust-catching throw pillows on that couch?) in favor of leather or a leather-look motif. (It’s real easy to see [and thus remove] dust on a navy blue wingback chair—trust me.)

And if you use an air filtering machine, change those filters at least as often as recommended. Ditto for the HEPA filter in the vacuum.

Don’t forget to frequently wash bath towels and bath rugs. There is a whole lot of exfoliating going on in that bathroom. But don’t think of all this cleaning as a list of unpleasant chores. Think of it as the perfect opportunity to engage a cleaning service!

To make matters more complicated, there are potentially risky indoor activities that have nothing to do with dust. One of the creepiest things about allergies is that they can appear at any time. One night you go to a holiday open house in the neighborhood and over-indulge in crab dip, eggnog, and ginger-walnut cookies. The next thing you know, your eyes are swollen shut and you’re chugging liquid Benadryl as you are driven to urgent care. Was it the crab, the nuts, or even the ginger in the cookies? They are all known allergens.

Now is the time to call an allergist and get tested for food sensitivities as well as mold and other allergies. Things do change; allergies can appear, reappear, and disappear. (Maybe there’s a reason you now have to blow your nose every time you eat lasagna.)

Approximately 50 million of us suffer from allergies. But why? It seems to be immune system related—our systems are kind of acting against ourselves. Furthermore, many of the allergies seem to come from those to whom we are related. Is it some kind of design flaw?

However, you can rest assured that with a problem this pervasive, and this debilitating, many not-so-mad scientists are hard at work in their laboratories. What a coup when they completely figure this one out. And what a coup for the holder of the patents.—S.H.

What’s Up? does not give medical advice. This material is simply a discussion of current information, trends, and topics. Please seek the advice of a physician before making any changes to your lifestyle or routine.