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Tips for taming winter allergies

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Did you know cockroaches, dust mites, dander, and mold can trigger allergy symptoms?

Many people think allergies only happen in the spring and summer, but with frigid temperatures and unusually snowy conditions, staying warm inside gives prolonged exposure to four powerful indoor allergens capable of triggering a variety of symptoms.

"If you -- or your dog -- experience more than nine days of continuing congestion, coughing, sneezing, watery eyes and nasal drip, chances are good that you are reacting to the presence of either dust mites, cockroaches, animal dander, or mold somewhere in your home, office or school," said Dr. Joan Lehach, integrative medicine physician specializing in allergy, asthma and clinical immunology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. "Many times, and especially in the inner city where populations are dense, all four of these allergens are present and must be addressed."

Dr. Lehach's tips for controlling your indoor allergy symptoms:

1. Mold inspection: The first step for controlling your allergy symptoms is to do a little inspection for mold inside the house. Some of the most common places to find mold are on shower curtains, wallpaper, carpets and the sink.

2. Cockroach hunt: Studies have found cockroach allergens to be present in at least half of inner city homes and in nearly three-quarters of inner city schools. Cockroaches do not have to be alive to trigger respiratory problems. Dust containing molecules of crushed carcasses can still cause problems.

3. Dry up dust mites: Keep your indoor humidity at 50 percent or lower. Higher humidity allows dust mites to breed. A humidity gauge can be purchased very reasonably on-line or at your local hardware store.

4. Filter out animal dander: A small HEPA air purifier placed in each room will keep airborne dander from spreading throughout the house. Mice or other fur-bearing pests living under the house or in the attic must be searched for and removed.

5. Get symptom relief: Check with your veterinarian on ways to treat your dog's allergy symptoms. For you, ask your doctor if a mixture of sinus-friendly Chinese herbs, like Rootology, could reduce your allergy symptoms.

6. Start an immune-building diet: Eliminate foods that are weakening the immune system, like processed and packaged foods. Add in allergy fighting foods like blueberries -- good for you and your dog. Ask you veterinarian about adding digestive enzymes to help your dog access more of the nutrients in the food you are feeding.

7. Get sufficient sleep: Immune systems are "sleep-driven", and allergies are precipitated by weakened immunity. Are you and your dog getting enough rest?

8. Stay hydrated: Dehydration causes all kinds of issues, be sure you offer your dog clean, fresh water that is available all the time. Be sure you are drinking enough fluids too to keep allergens from getting into your nasal lining and then your bloodstream.

9. Use the "hot" setting: Wash your bedding in hot water (at least 130 degrees) to properly neutralize allergens. This goes for dog beds too, wash those with the same frequency you wash your own bedding.

10. Wash your face and hands: If there is dander, mold, or dust on your face or hands, chances are good that you will end up inhaling it or transferring it to people and pets -- get busy washing those hands!

Share your allergy prevention tips and tricks in the comments and be sure to share if you've found these tips helpful.

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