Tips for Combating Indoor Allergies this Winter

It’s winter. The windows are shut, the furnace is cranked, and you and your pets are spending a lot more quality time together indoors. If you have allergies, you may be feeling the effects, including sneezing and congestion.

“Many children and adults find that their allergy symptoms flare up in the winter months because they spend a lot more time with indoor allergens, including dust mites, mold or pet dander,” said Dr. Marybeth McCall, vice president and chief medical officer of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s Central New York and Southern Tier regions.
Here are some tips to allergy-proof your home. If symptoms persist, talk to your physician.

Keep pets out of the bedroom. Are you allergic to animals? If so, try to keep them out of your bedroom and away from carpeted areas. Bathe animals often. If you’re considering getting a pet, research short-haired or non-shedding varieties.

Control dust mites. These tiny bugs can be found in mattresses, pillows, cloth furniture and carpets. Battle dust mites by covering mattresses and pillows with allergy-proof covers. Wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets weekly in hot water. Vacuum often and with a vacuum that has a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate) filter. Use blinds instead of curtains or drapes. Cut down on the number of stuffed animals in children’s bedrooms (or at least wash them frequently). If possible, replace carpets with hardwood floors.

Stop mold growth. Mold grows in damp and moist areas. Prevent mold from growing by using an exhaust fan while showering and cooking; repairing water leaks in basements, inside walls and under sinks; and fixing leaking roofs or pipes. Put a dehumidifier in a damp basement, but remember to frequently drain the water collection tank.

Stop cockroaches from moving in. Cockroach droppings may trigger your allergies. To help keep them out of your house, store unrefrigerated food in closed containers; make sure your kitchen garbage is stored in a lidded can; and wipe down any area or plate where crumbs may gather. Don’t forget to keep pet food in sealed containers.

“Eliminating the source of your allergies is the most effective step in alleviating symptoms,” McCall said.

For more information on indoor allergies, visit the following Web sites:
• Excellus BlueCross BlueShield at
• American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology at
• Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America at