Even as the air cools, trees shed their leaves and most activities move indoors, allergies still can be bothersome for some people. Many late summer weeds — ragweed for example — pollinate until the first frost. As leaves fall and accumulate, mold spores proliferate. If you suffer from airborne allergies, autumn winds can carry allergy misery until winter descends.
When winter comes and the temperature gets colder, you and your family likely will spend more time indoors with windows shut, storm windows and doors tightly closed, and the heat on. Indoor allergens then are the main triggers of symptoms. Indoor allergens include animal dander (flakes of dead skin from animals), proteins deposited by dust mites (microscopic bugs that infest carpeting, beds and upholstery) and mold spores.
In addition, the holiday season may offer new opportunities to sneeze. Christmas trees, both real and artificial, can be sources of allergens. If artificial trees are stored improperly, they may collect mold and dust. Evergreen trees also can bring in mold or pollens from its pre-Christmas environment.
Holiday foods can be a challenging time for people with food allergies. The most common food allergies involve milk, eggs, legumes (especially peanuts) and nuts, all of which are staples of traditional fare, including cookies, eggnog and fruitcake. Even the tiniest amount of an offending food can trigger a reaction, and often, a person can ingest the food without knowing. If you or a family member has food allergies, use extra caution during the holiday season.
Here are a few tips to help you sidestep autumn and winter allergies:
- Don't allow piles of damp leaves to remain in your yard where mold can develop. Let someone else do your raking and remove the leaves soon after they come down, especially if they're wet.
- Wipe clean artificial tree with a damp cloth. If you choose a real tree, spray it with water to remove surface pollen. Clean dust and mold off ornaments and lights as you take them out of storage.
- Avoid places where there is likely to be a lot of cigarette smoke, as it irritates the eyes and respiratory system.
- If you have food allergies, be careful about homemade holiday foods that can be contaminated with small amounts of allergenic foods. If you have severe food sensitivities, don't eat any food unless you are certain of its ingredients. If necessary, bring your own food to the party and always carry an emergency self-injectable epinephrine kit (available by prescription from a health care professional).