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During the winter, dry indoor air is often the cause of chapped lips, dry skin and irritated sinus passages. The moisture from a humidifier can soothe dry sinus passages. However, if you have indoor allergies, dust and mold from the humidifier may cause more harm than good.

The number one indoor allergen is the dust mite. Dust mites grow best where there is moisture. Moisturizing the air with a humidifier creates the perfect home for dust mites to live and prosper. Keep the humidity level in your house between 40-50%. You can monitor the levels with a hygrometer.

Mold spores can also be an issue for people with mold allergies. It is important to clean and change the filter in the humidifier on a regular basis so mold does not grow in the unit and blow into the home. Read the manufacturer instructions for tips on cleaning your humidifier.

If possible, use distilled or demineralized water in your humidifier. The higher level of minerals in tap water can increase bacteria growth, resulting in a white dust and additional irritation to your sinuses.

If you have indoor allergies, check with your allergist / immunologist to see if using a humidifier can help you and your sinuses survive winter.

Citation: https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/humidifiers-and-indoor-allergies

By Michael Blaiss, MD

ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS about winter is that there’s no pollen in the air. All the leaves have fallen off the trees, and the grass is brown and may even be covered with snow, allowing sufferers of hay fever a reprieve from their nasal symptoms. So, you may be asking, “Why am I having constant sneezing, and my nose is itching and running during the winter months? How can that be?”

Unfortunately, for many people, the winter can be a terrible time for allergies. But since winter is “cold” season, how do you know if your nasal problems are from an allergy or a virus?

Here are some ways to help distinguish whether you have a virus or an allergy:

  • Viruses may be associated with fever, while allergies never result in a fever.
  • Viruses produce colored mucus from the nose, while allergies cause clear drainage.
  • Viruses typically don’t have any eye symptoms, while allergies may produce watery, itchy eyes.
  • Viruses may lead to sore throats and body aches, while these are not seen with allergies.
  • Viruses are short-lived, usually lasting up to two weeks, while allergies may last throughout the season or longer.

If your symptoms suggest that you are miserable from a winter allergy, what could be the cause? According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, these are some of the most likely culprits:

  • House dust mites: These pests are barely visible to the naked eye and grow in carpet, bedding and upholstered furniture. In the winter, they die, and their decomposed body parts and feces can trigger allergy symptoms.
  • Animal dander: Your cat or dog can cause year-round allergy symptoms, but these may be more noticeable in the winter when you spend more time indoors.
  • Mold spores: Like pets, molds can lead to allergy troubles all year, but especially in the cold, wet winter months. The most common locations to observe mold growth are your bathrooms and basement.

What can you do about these allergy triggers? The first step is avoidance. For house dust mites, removing the carpet from bedroom floor, washing all the bedding with hot water – at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit – removing dust collectors from the bedroom and putting mite-proof encasings on the mattress and box springs can help reduce symptoms. To avoid pet dander, always keep your pet out of your bedroom. Some studies suggest that frequent bathing of your pet is beneficial in keeping dander down to a minimum. Remember, there is no such thing is a “hypoallergenic” cat or dog. Any area where mold is growing needs to be scrubbed thoroughly, and be sure to control any moisture or water source that’s causing mold development. In a basement with mold problems, a dehumidifier can be effective.

Second, medication may be used to minimize your nasal misery. Over-the-counter medications, such as non-sedating antihistamines, like Claritin and Zyrtec, and intranasal corticosteroids, like Flonase and Nasacort, can be beneficial. These treatments don’t cure your allergies and need to be taken regularly to control the nasal symptoms. Depending on the severity of your allergies, these remedies may be enough to improve your quality of life.

What if avoidance and medication don’t work well enough, you’re having side effects from the medication or you’re just tired of using medications all the time? What can you do? If this is the case, it’s time to seek medical help from a board-certified allergist. You’ll probably require allergy testing to determine exactly what’s causing your symptoms. You may find after speaking with your allergist that you’re a candidate for allergen immunotherapy. This is a type of vaccination where you’re given small amounts of what you’re allergic to by a tablet under the tongue (house dust mites) or by injections (pets, molds, house dust mites), over a three- to five-year period. Allergen immunotherapy has been shown not only to reduce symptoms, but also to help get rid of your allergies permanently.

Citation:  https://health.usnews.com/health-care/for-better/articles/2019-01-11/winter-allergies-how-to-cope?

 

Hives – https://acaai.org/allergies/types-allergies/hives-urticaria

“Hives, also known as urticaria, affects about 20 percent of people at some time during their lives. It can be triggered by many substances or situations and usually starts as an itchy patch of skin that turns into swollen red welts. — ACAAI News https://acaai.org/news/

Overview

If you’ve had red or skin-colored bumps that appeared and disappeared quickly, then it’s unlikely to be simple bug bites. The skin rash could be hives, and the itching from hives may range from mild to severe. Scratching, alcoholic beverages, exercise and emotional stress may worsen the itching. If you think you might have hives, then it’s best to speak with an allergist.

Symptoms

Symptoms can last anywhere from minutes to months – or even years.

While they resemble bug bites, hives (also known as urticaria) are different in several ways:

  • Hives can appear on any area of the body; they may change shape, move around, disappear and reappear over short periods of time.
  • The bumps – red or skin-colored “wheals” with clear edges – usually appear suddenly and go away just as quickly.
  • Pressing the center of a red hive makes it turn white – a process called “blanching.”

There are two types of hives – short-lived (acute) and long-term (chronic). Neither is typically life-threatening, though any swelling in the throat or any other symptom that restricts breathing requires immediate emergency care.

Hives Triggers

  • Some food (especially peanuts, eggs, nuts and shellfish)
  • Medications, such as antibiotics (especially penicillin and sulfa), aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Insect stings or bites
  • Physical stimuli, such as pressure, cold, heat, exercise or sun exposure
  • Latex
  • Blood transfusions
  • Bacterial infections, including urinary tract infections and strep throat
  • Viral infections, including the common cold, infectious mononucleosis and hepatitis
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen
  • Some plants, such as poison oak and poison ivy

Management and Treatment

Researchers have identified many – but not all – of the factors that can cause hives. These include food and other substances you take, such as medications. Some people develop hives just by touching certain items. Some illnesses also cause hives. Here are a few of the most common causes:

  • Some food (especially peanuts, eggs, nuts and shellfish)
  • Medications, such as antibiotics (especially penicillin and sulfa), aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Insect stings or bites
  • Physical stimuli such as pressure, cold, heat, exercise or sun exposure
  • Latex
  • Blood transfusions
  • Bacterial infections, including urinary tract infections and strep throat
  • Viral infections, including the common cold, infectious mononucleosis and hepatitis
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen
  • Some plants, such as poison oak and poison ivy

Antihistamines – available either over the counter or by prescription – are a frequently recommended treatment for hives. They work by blocking the effect of histamine, a chemical in the skin that can cause allergy symptoms, including welts. Low-sedating or nonsedating antihistamines are preferred. They are effective and long-lasting (may be taken once a day) and have few side effects. Your allergist may recommend a combination of two or three antihistamines to treat your hives, along with cold compresses or anti-itch salves to ease the symptoms.

Severe episodes of urticaria may require temporary treatment with prednisone, a similar corticosteroid medication or an immune modulator, which can reduce the severity of the symptoms.

If your reaction involves swelling of your tongue or lips, or you have trouble breathing, your allergist may prescribe an epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector for you to keep on hand at all times. These can be early symptoms of anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction that impairs breathing and can send the body into shock. The only treatment for anaphylaxis is epinephrine. If you develop hives and your injector is not nearby – or if using the auto-injector doesn’t cause the symptoms to immediately improve – go to an emergency room immediately. You should also go to the emergency room after using an auto-injector.

If the cause of hives can be identified, the best treatment is to avoid the trigger or eliminate it:

  • Foods: Don’t eat foods that have been identified to cause your symptoms.
  • Rubbing or scratching: Avoid harsh soaps. Frequent baths may reduce itching and scratching – beneficial because itching and scratching can make the hives feel worse.
  • Constant pressure: Avoid tight clothing. Pressure hives can be relieved by wearing loose-fitting clothes.
  • Temperature: If you develop hives when exposed to cold, do not swim alone in cold water and always carry an epinephrine auto-injector. Avoid exposure to cold air and use a scarf around your nose and mouth in cold weather. If you must be out in the cold, wear warm clothing. 
  • Sun exposure: Wear protective clothing; apply sunblock.
  • Medications: Notify your physician or pharmacist immediately if you suspect that a specific medication is causing your hives.

Citation: ACAAI News https://acaai.org/news/