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Why your allergies remain even though winter’s near

Updated: January 6, 2013 9:37AM



Q. Leaves are gone, there are no flowers, but my allergies just keep going. What is it that gets me sneezing and congested during the winter?

A. Mold spores and dust mites are the usual suspects when it comes to identifying winter allergies. Mold spores can lurk in piles of rotting autumn leaves; in soil (outside or in house plants); behind the walls of your house — if there’s a slow drip in a pipe; and anywhere that moisture accumulates, from shower stalls to drain pipes (also inside or out). Outdoors, molds can survive the first hard frost. Indoors, they love humidity. Keep yours at 35 percent to 45 percent, or you’re just asking mold to thrive.

Then, there are dust mites. These microscopic critters live indoors and feast on dry flakes of human skin that collect in bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture, bookshelves, behind radiators and in closets. They crank out little bits of waste (mite poop, really) and that’s what triggers your allergy. The best defense? Wash bedding in water that’s 130 degrees or higher, get mite-proof bed coverings and keep inside humidity below 35 percent.

The symptoms of mold and dust mite allergies are similar to summertime allergies: sneezing, itchy eyes (more mites than mold), runny nose and congestion, even skin irritation and dry patches. Relief comes from antihistamines that stifle symptoms. But if you get mold in your lungs, you can develop asthma (wheezing, shortness of breath) and may need to use an inhaler to get relief.

But we like the idea of making an end run on allergies by boosting your immune system and desensitizing your body to the allergy triggers. What works? Some studies show that getting a lot of folate from food (fortified grains, spinach, asparagus and broccoli) and 400 micrograms from a supplement can reduce symptoms by 31 percent and wheezing by 40 percent. Also, go easy on the alcohol: Two drinks a day makes you more likely to have year-round allergies.

Q. Hurricane Sandy didn’t come near where we live. However, while we were all worried about the people it affected, my 8-year-old daughter became very frightened and upset. Is that kind of anxiety nutty or normal?

A. Children often personalize situations — fearing that bad things will happen to themselves, their family or friends. So your child isn’t nutty, but you are describing anxiety that’s not constructive.

Limit exposure to TV, Internet and tabloid news stories — the 24/7 news cycle fuels repetitive and dramatic reporting. Kids pick up on negative parental vibes, so accentuate the positive. Point out how brave the first responders are; and how the early-warning system saved lives.

King Features



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