Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Year-round allergies

Many allergy sufferers are all too familiar with the annoyance of sneezing, watery eyes and running noses. Dr. Alicia Arnold joined us to tell us more about year-round allergies.

MK: Can you tell us the difference between year-round versus seasonal allergies?

AA: Those who have seasonal allergies may find that their symptoms are worse during certain times of the year. Classically, spring is the worst time for tree pollen and fall is worse for weed pollen. Year-round allergies are substances that we could be exposed to regardless of the season. Pet dander, dust mites, and mold are examples of allergens that can be present year round in homes.

MK: What are some things we can do to reduce these indoor allergy triggers?

AA: Dust mites live in our bedding, carpets, and upholstered furniture. The waste products of these dust mites can trigger allergic reactions. Dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments, so keeping the humidity lower in your home may help. Wash bedding in hot water weekly to help kill dust mites. Try dusting and cleaning with a damp rag or cloth rather than a dry one to avoid stirring up dust. You can get dust mite covers for pillows and mattresses. HEPA filters, which stands for high efficiency particulate air filter, are available in vacuums and may help prevent allergy symptoms while you are cleaning.

MK: How about pet allergies?

AA: Try to keep your pets out of the bedroom. Talk to your vet about how often you can bathe your pet without drying out its skin. If you have pet allergies, and are considering moving houses or apartments, think about getting a place that has less carpeting and more tile, wood, or linoleum flooring as it is easier to keep clean. Also, it can take up to weeks or months for pet allergens to go away even after the pet is no longer there, so check with the previous owner or landlord to see if a pet recently lived in the home. Of course, good common sense tips like washing your hands and clothes after being around pets are always a smart idea.

MK: You also mentioned mold as a potential allergy trigger?

AA: Yes, mold can be outdoor and indoor. Air filters may help. Mold thrives in humid environments, so using a dehumidifier in the basement can make a difference. Make sure that bathrooms and laundry rooms are appropriately vented to the outside. You can also wear a mask while doing yard work like raking leaves or working with mulch or dead wood.

MK: What are some ways to help tell the difference between allergies and a cold?

AA: Colds can come with fevers, overall fatigue, or body aches, which allergies don't usually have. Colds can also have thicker, yellow nasal discharge whereas allergies more commonly have thinner, more watery discharge. Also, colds frequently clear up within a week or so, but allergies can last as long as you are exposed to the allergen. Your healthcare provider can also help you sort out the situation and get the most appropriate treatment.

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