Ten Tricks to Combat Winter Allergies

Jan 3, 2013


Dr. William Reisacher, director of The Allergy Center in the Department of Otolaryngology (head and neck surgery) at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, says, "During the winter, families spend more time indoors, exposing allergic individuals to allergens and irritants like dust mites, pet dander, smoke, household sprays and chemicals, and gas fumes — any of which can make their lives miserable."

Dr. Rachel Miller, director of allergy and immunology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, adds, "Mold spores can cause additional problems compared to pollen allergy because mold grows anywhere and needs little more than moisture and oxygen to thrive. During the holiday season it is especially important to make sure that Christmas trees and holiday decorations are mold-free."

Drs. Reisacher and Miller offer these simple tricks to keep mold and dust mites at bay and make the winter months more bearable for indoor allergy sufferers:

  • Turn on the exhaust fan when showering or cooking to remove excess humidity and odors.
  • Clean your carpets with a HEPA vacuum to decrease dust mites and pet allergen levels.
  • Wash your hands after playing with the family pet and avoid touching your face to decrease exposure to common winter viruses.
  • Launder your bed linens and pajamas in hot water (above 130 degrees) to kill dust mites.
  • Treat your bedroom as the allergy "safe haven" of your home because this is where you may spend most of your time. Your bedroom should have the fewest allergy triggers so keep pets, carpets, rugs and plants out of this room to avoid dust mites and mold from decaying plants. You may also want to place an allergenic barrier around your pillows and mattress to create a barrier between dust mites and your nose.
  • Spray your live Christmas tree with a garden hose before setting it up and remove all dust from your holiday decorations.
  • Install high-efficiency furnace filters: they capture 30 times more allergens, and make sure your furnace fan is always on.
  • Keep your indoor humidity level between 30-40%, with the help of a humidifier or dehumidifier, to help prevent the growth of mold and mites.
  • Change the water and filters in your humidifier according to manufacturer recommendations to avoid contamination by mold and bacteria.
  • Perform an indoor and outdoor survey of the house every month to look for visible mold and identify areas that are at high-risk for mold formation, such as a pile of firewood close to the house or an area of the basement with a musty odor.

For more information, patients may call (866) NYP-NEWS

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is the nation's largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital, with 2,409 beds. The Hospital has nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits in a year, including 12,797 deliveries and 195,294 visits to its emergency departments. NewYork-Presbyterian's 6,144 affiliated physicians and 19,376 staff provide state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation's leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

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