When people think of seasonal allergies in the Carolinas they usually think of pollen in the spring. However, winter allergies, especially those cause by mold and dust, can also be a problem.
Winters in this region are notable for mold allergies, CEENTA Otolaryngologist Gregory S. Parsons, MD, said. Winters get a lot of rain, and wet environments are conducive to mold. Molds can grow anywhere with the right conditions, such as basements, damp surfaces, and carpets.
Anytime there is a lot of moisture we go through periods where mold can be a problem. This January has been wetter than normal, Dr. Parsons said. Already more than an extra inch of precipitation has fallen. Conversely, last year when it was dry the mold count was low.
Mold gets released when the weather changes, too, such as with a rainstorm or barometric change, Dr. Parsons said. Molds tend to release spores when that happens.
Dust allergies can also be a problem right now, Dr. Parsons said. When we close up our homes and turn on the heat dust gets kicked up.
Mold and dust allergies cause typical allergy symptoms in people – nasal congestion, a runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes and throat, and coughing.
There are three ways to deal with winter allergy issues, Dr. Parsons said. The first is to avoid the allergens as much as possible. The second is to treat it with over-the-counter medicine. If those don’t work, a patient can be tested for allergens and considered for immunotherapy. Immunotherapy shots are available for mold allergies, and shots and sublingual drops are available for dust allergies.
Mold and dust allergies are more location-generated problems than other allergens, Dr. Parsons said. For example, many people find when they go to work or move to a new job that they have lots of symptoms but can’t figure out why. It’s usually because the air is too restricted and is not clearing quickly enough.
However, that means you can do a lot to keep these allergens out of your personal spaces. If you go home and find you have more problems there, for example, you can minimize mold exposure by keeping the humidity level reasonable, or around 35-40 percent.
To get rid of dust mites, Dr. Parsons recommends washing sheets in hot water once a week. Vacuuming and electronic or high-level air filters and air exchanges help, too.
Pollen season is still a little time away, so following these points can help you breathe easy the rest of the winter.
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