If spring allergy seasons are particularly brutal for you, donâ€™t expect much relief during fall or winter. In a WebMD article discussing the top winter allergy triggers, Dr. Asriani Chiu, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and medicine at the College of Wisconsin, points out that the majority of winter allergies are actually caused by the same inhaled allergens that aggravate spring and summer allergies.
Since most people spend more time indoors during the chilly fall and winter months, they may experience an increase in allergy flare-ups, asthma symptoms, or chemical sensitivity symptoms due to dust mites, mold, pet dander, dust, odors, and other common indoor allergens—as well as allergens tracked in from outdoors like moldy leaves or logs for the fire. This article contains tips and advice for winning the battle against allergy and asthma flare-ups this fall and winter, leaving you more time to enjoy the cooler weather, cozy sweaters, and holiday time with family.
Humidifiers Help Curb Cold Weather Symptoms
As temperatures begin to fall, most people turn up the heat in their homes. While your heating system may bring welcome warmth to chilly feet and hands, it can wreak havoc on the relative humidity of your home by drying out your indoor air. Excessively dry air can lead to:
- Dry, irritated sinus passages
- Bloody noses
- Itchy skin
- Cracked lips
- Sore, scratchy throats
- Aggravated respiratory ailments
- Unexpected shocks from static electricity
Loss of moisture in your indoor environment can even damage your physical home and the belongings inside, causing cracking, warping, and separation in wood products.
To avoid these irritating symptoms and side effects, try adding a humidifier to your room or home. By delivering moisture to parched indoor environments, such as bedrooms, dens, and offices, humidifiers can help you maintain a comfortable relative humidity level, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states is between 45% and 50%. If you are unsure about the relative humidity of your area, a hygrometer can help you determine the moisture level of your indoor environment.
There are a wide variety of humidifiers available, and understanding their differences will help you choose the best humidifier for your needs. There are five basic types:
- Cool Mist Humidifiers: Also called, evaporative humidifiers, these units feature an internal wick that absorbs water while a fan blows air through a filter, which causes the water to evaporate and transform into an invisible mist that is dispersed throughout your area.
- Warm Mist Humidifiers: These humidifiers use an internal heating element to bring water to a boil before releasing the warm, invisible mist into your environment. Using a warm mist humidifier is often considered healthier because the boiling process eliminates bacteria and mold, preventing them from entering your indoor environment.
- Ultrasonic Humidifiers: Available in both cool mist and warm mist versions, these humidifiers use high-frequency sound waves to vibrate a metal diaphragm until it reaches an ultrasonic frequency. This motion results in the creation of tiny water droplets that are released into your area as an ultrafine, moisturizing fog. These humidifiers are considered the quietest because the sound waves are emitted at a higher frequency than we can hear.
- Ultraviolet Humidifiers: This type of humidifier uses ultraviolet (UV) light technology to eliminate germs, bacteria, and other harmful pollutants from your humidifierâ€™s water tank before they can be redistributed throughout your environment. These devices are available in warm and cool mist versions.
- Whole House Humidifiers: With the ability to add moisture to spaces as large as 3,000 square feet, these units are available in two unique designs. Freestanding large console humidifiers, like the Bemis/Essick Air 3-Speed Console Humidifier, can be placed in a central location to added much-needed moisture to your large area. In-duct designs, such as the Honeywell HE360 Humidifier, are installed into your ductwork to support your central heating and cooling system.
To learn more about humidifiers and ways they can improve your indoor environment, visit the Humidifiers section of our Learning Center.
Non-Fan-Forced Heaters Keep Allergens at Bay
While your heating system may take away moisture, it adds something else to your indoor air—allergens! During warmer months when heat isnâ€™t necessary, your space heater or central heating system is likely home to a variety irritants including dust, dust mites, mold spores, insect parts, pet dander, and more. When your heater is turned on, these allergens are distributed throughout your indoor space, causing irritating allergy and asthma symptoms. Fortunately, there are a few ways to avoid the winter onslaught of indoor allergens.
If your home doesnâ€™t have central heating or if you want to control energy costs by spot heating rooms most often used, infrared heaters, like the Comfort Furnace CF1500XP-UV, or micathermic heaters, such as the Soleus HGW-308, are great solutions for reducing indoor airborne irritants. Since these heaters donâ€™t use a fan to deliver warmth to your area, redistribution of dust, dust mites, mold spores, and other allergens is significantly reduced.
Air Purifiers Remove Irritating Allergens and Particles
Using central heating doesnâ€™t mean that you have to suffer all winter from airborne allergy symptoms. By adding an air purifier to your home, you are able to combat a wide variety of airborne irritants, including dust, dust mites, pet dander, and mold. Plus, air purifiers improve the quality of your indoor air year-round! For those with severe allergies, asthma, or chemical sensitivities, there are even air purifiers that remove mold, bacteria, and odors.
For high-efficiency air cleaning, look for air purifiers with HEPA filtration like our customer favorite, the Whirlpool 450 Air Purifier. A HEPA filter, or High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter, effectively removes up to 99.97% of airborne particles 0.3 microns or larger, which includes dust mites, pollen, pet dander, and other microscopic irritant that aggravate allergies and asthma.
For more robust air filtration, the IQAir HealthPro Plus features 2-stage gas filters to prevent gaseous toxins and odors from aggravating sensitive respiratory systems as well as true HEPA filtration. The triple-seal design of the IQAir HealthPro Plus also effectively removes mold, bacteria, and viruses. This is extremely helpful during the fall and winter months since wet, moldy leaves and other irritants can easily find their way into your home and into the air you breathe. Powerful air filtration is also a great line of defense for combating winter colds and the flu. In fact, the Rabbit Air BioGS Air Purifier actually features an anti-flu coating on its HEPA filter, which has been tested and proven to reduce the viral infectivity of certain flu viruses including the H3N2 virus, which is a strain similar to avian flu.
Other Tips to Avoid Fall and Winter Allergies
In addition to these indoor air treatment products, use these handy tips to manage or even prevent fall and winter allergy symptoms:
- Avoid Known Allergy- and Asthma-Symptom Triggers: If damp leaves cause irritating symptoms, avoid yard work on windy days. If pet dander or dust cause coughing, itchy eyes, or stuffy noses, try sweeping, vacuuming, or dusting more often.
- Wash Your Hands Often: Keeping your hands clean reduces the amount of allergens and viruses that you are carrying and potentially spreading to others. When your allergy symptoms are particularly intense, take a shower to wash away allergens that may be lurking in your hair. According to WebMD, showering also encourages you to change clothes, which can eliminate allergens clinging to your shirt or pants.
- Get Allergy Bedding: Restful sleep is crucial for staying healthy. However, if your bed has been invaded by dust mites, this can trigger acute allergy and asthma flare-ups. Allergy bedding—available in comfortable cotton, organic cotton, alpaca wool, and particle-resistant silk—can help eliminate dust mite populations and prevent new ones from forming.
- Know the Difference Between an Allergy and a Cold: Allergy symptoms and cold symptoms can easily be confused. The duration of symptoms and how quickly they appear are good indicators for determining if your sniffles and cough are allergy- or cold-related. For example, allergy symptoms typically appear quickly and all at once, whereas cold symptoms seem to develop more slowly and one at a time. For more information on cold and allergy differences, read this LIVESTRONG.com article.
- Take Advantage of Flu Vaccines: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone receive a flu vaccination each flu season. For more information on the vaccine and to find out where to get it, visit Flu.gov.
For more information and articles on controlling allergy and asthma symptoms, stop by our Learning Center or Indoor Health Matters blog.
Still Have Questions?
To order any of the air treatment solutions mentioned in this article or to browse other products, browse our online catalog. For help choosing the best indoor air treatment solution to suit your needs, call one of our friendly, knowledgeable air treatment specialists at 1-800-934-9194 for your free consultation.