Jan 20, 2009

Breathe Easier!

Family Guide To Winter Allergies - Ten Tips On Improving Life In The Winter For Both Parents And Children

Spring and summer are not the only seasons that bring misery to those with allergies.

"The end of the pollinating season is good news for people -- both adults and children -- with hay fever and similar summer allergies, but those who are sensitive to mold spores may have to wait until the first frost to find relief. Allergy to mold spores can be more of a problem than pollen allergy because mold grows anywhere and is not limited to a single season. It needs little more than moisture and oxygen to thrive," says Dr. Michael Stewart, chairman of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

In addition, Dr. David J. Resnick, acting director of the Allergy Division at the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New-York-Presbyterian, says, "Allergies can trigger or worsen asthma and other respiratory illnesses especially in the winter when families spend more time indoors, which increases their exposure to irritants like dust mites, pet dander, smoke, household sprays and chemicals, and gas fumes -- any and all of which can make their lives miserable."

Drs. Stewart and Resnick offer these 10 tips to make the winter months more bearable for allergy sufferers:

- Keep your indoor humidity level below 35 percent to help prevent the growth of mold and mites.

-Use exhaust fans when showering or cooking to remove excess humidity and odors. Avoid putting rugs in the bedroom, if possible, since wall-to-wall carpeting is an ideal place for dust mites to proliferate.

- When outdoors, keep children from playing in areas that promote mold growth, such as dark, wooded areas.

- Use dust-proof covers for mattresses, box springs and pillows to decrease exposure to allergens, but consult your allergist before undertaking such an expense.

- Wash bed linens and nightclothes in hot water (above 130 degrees) to kill dust mites.

- If you must use a humidifier, keep it clean and change the water frequently to avoid contamination by mold and bacteria. Central humidifiers should be sprayed with an anti-mold agent.

- Don't put plants in the bedroom, since decaying leaves and increased humidity can stimulate growth of mold.

- Adults and children allergic to household pets (dogs and cats) should minimize their contact with them. If you cannot remove the pets from the household, keep them out of the bedroom at all times.

- Children with asthma should get a flu vaccine at the end of October or the beginning of November before the onset of cold weather. Also, keep your child well-hydrated and protected from cold air with proper attire (i.e., a scarf over the mouth).

- Contact your family physician or allergist for proper evaluation and treatment.

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