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    The Best Ways to Fight off Winter Allergies

    Many people get surprised when they learn that you can suffer from winter allergies.

    Just as we shut out the blustery winds and snowfalls during the winter months, we shut ourselves in with a host of indoor allergens, or substances that trigger allergic reactions.

    Fortunately, you can modify your winter home environment to minimize indoor allergens and maximize your comfort.

    What Causes Allergies During the Winter?

    The most significant allergens come from pet dander and dust mites. We’re exposed to these allergens year-round, but they tend to get worse in the winter months when windows are closed and there isn’t much fresh air circulating through the house.

    Dust mites. These tiny, eight-legged spider relatives typically congregate in mattresses, pillows, upholstery, stuffed animals and carpeting. Living mites are completely harmless; they do not carry disease nor do they bite or make their homes on humans. However, their droppings and body parts may trigger allergic reactions.

    Pet dander. Today’s energy-efficient homes are well sealed against the winter chill—trapping pet allergens as expeditiously as they contain heat. What's more, animal dander is light enough to float on air for extended periods of time and easily adheres to walls, lampshades, drapes and other exposed surfaces.

    Identifying the Allergens That Affect You

    Allergic reactions (such as rashes, hives, shortness of breath, sinus pain, watery eyes, and itchy or sore throat) can take a toll on both the body and the mind, leaving you feeling tired and aggravated.

    Visit an allergist or immunologist for allergy tests to isolate what's causing your symptoms. This will help you focus your home environment modifications where they are needed most.

    Reducing Indoor Allergen Levels

    The following steps can help you reduce the levels of allergens within your home.

    Give your bed an overhaul regularly. Wash your comforter/duvet a few times a year and your sheets every week with hot water to help kill allergens. Special mattresses, box springs and pillow casings are available that create a barrier between your body and potential allergens.

    Consider using a dehumidifier in your bedroom. Dust mites absorb moisture from humidity through their joints. When humidity falls below 50%, the little creatures start dying off.

    Vacuum at least once a week. Animal dander and dust gets everywhere, so running the vacuum over the floor is simply not enough. Vacuum walls, upholstery, furniture, drapes and the ceiling. For maximum impact, vacuum everything in sight.

    Choose the right filter.A standard vacuum could worsen dander levels by sucking it in and spewing it out, thus filling the air with allergens. Using a HEPA-equipped (High Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum helps suck up 99.97% of particles with a size of 0.3 microns (which, by the way, is really tiny), and is a must-have for all air cleaners, vacuums and filters that are used to control pet dander and dust mites. Thorough HEPA vacuuming, in conjunction with HEPA air cleaners and specialized furnace filters, can minimize allergens.

    Try tannic acid.  Tannic acid is a natural product found in tea, coffee and oak bark that neutralizes the allergens in dust mite and animal dander. (Just be sure to spot-test before treatment, as tannic acid can stain.)

    Clean on a regular basis. Pet dander and dust will continue to build up, so regular maintenance is necessary. It is advisable (especially during confined winter months) to keep your house as clean as possible.

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    **These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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