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Getting Your Home, Your Nose, and Your Skin Ready for Winter

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This issue of News For A Healthier You gives practical tips for getting your home, nose, and skin ready for winter.
  1. Introduction
  2. Winterizing Your Home
  3. Getting Your Nose Ready For Winter
  4. Getting Your Skin Ready For Winter
  5. September's Special - Only For Newsletter Subscribers
  6. Newsletter Subscriber Sweepstakes Winner
Getting Your Home, Your Nose, and Your Skin Ready For Winter

Winter, when it's cold outside and your home is shut up tight, can be challenging for allergy and asthma sufferers. During cold weather, you are trapped indoors with allergens and other particulates, your nose and sinuses are susceptible to irritation from the cold, and sensitive skin sharply feels the effects of winter. Although it's only September, it won't be long until many parts of the country will start having cold nights soon to be followed by cold days. Now is the time to get your home, your nose, and your skin ready.

Winterizing Your Home
Before temperatures plummet, take a few minutes to inspect your home for ways to reduce exposure to dust mite allergen, pet dander, smoke particles, mold spores, and household dust.Image of Woman Taking Inventory

Check your house from head to toe:
  • In the attic, do you see any signs of leaks in the roof or holes or gaps that would allow outside particles to come inside?
  • Are your pipes protected from freezing and the possibility of bursting?
  • Are there any leaks around sinks, behind the refrigerator, or around the hot water heater?
  • Are windows free of condensation?
  • Have your furnace filters been changed recently and your system checked for problems?
In addition to pollutants that have come into your home through open or poorly sealed doors and windows, pollutants are also generated inside your home. These particles include floating dust and the various ingredients of dust; tiny airborne spores from mold and mildew; carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and various other byproducts of combustion from furnaces and gas stoves; tiny particles of soot from cooking; and off-gassing of formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from some types of plywood and particleboard found in cabinetry as well as from paints, glues, solvents and some wall-to-wall carpeting.

As with so many things, preventing the problem is a lot easier than curing it. You can eliminate some potential sources of trouble by taking these steps:
  • Forbid tobacco smoke in your home.
  • Avoid the use of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces since toxins and particles are released indoors and outdoors. If you must have a fire in your fireplace, burn only seasoned wood and no substitutes. The American Lung Association recommends converting to gas logs.
  • Look at the ingredients on cleaning supplies and choose those that are vegetable-based or very low in chemical content.
  • Wash bedding in hot (140° F) water every 2 weeks to eliminate dust mite allergen build-up or use a cold water allergen detergent or additive.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Never store fuel in a garage or shed connected to your home.
  • Choose pump sprayers instead of aerosol cans.
You cannot completely prevent particles in your home's air, but there are steps you can take to minimize the volume of particles contributing to poor indoor air quality:
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Getting Your Nose Ready For Winter
With respiratory ailments, including asthma, breathing cold air in winter can be a real problem. Limiting time outdoors and wearing a fleece mask when it is necessary to be outside can help prevent cold-induced asthma attacks and the exacerbation of other respiratory conditions.

Avoiding allergens and other airborne particles is the number one way to get your nose ready for winter, so getting your home ready for winter plays a key part in keeping your nasal and sinus passages healthy.

Another great preventative technique when preparing for winter is nasal irrigation, which rinses particles out of your nose and sinuses before they cause irritation and possible infection. Nasal and sinus irrigation is also beneficial to rinse out mucus and relieve inflammation, swelling, and discomfort. The two most widely recommended types of nasal irrigation are gravity-based and positive pressure. Gravity-based irrigation allows water to flow naturally in one nostril and out the other nostril with the head tilted sideways. This is an ancient method from Indian ayurvedic medicine from which the name "neti" pot is derived. The SinuCleanse Neti Pot and the NasaFlo Neti Pot by NeilMed are examples. Positive pressure irrigation gives you more control over the water flow as you apply pressure by some method to send the water up into your nostril and through your sinuses to cleanse away mucous. And research has shown this method to work better. Products such as Breathe-Ease, Nasaline, Nasopure, SinuAir, SaltAire, NeilMed Sinus Rinse, and SinuCleanse Squeeze fall into this category. Also in the positive pressure category are mechanized methods of irrigation such as the SinuPulse Elite and Hydro Pulse that send pulsing streams of water into your nose and sinuses in a motion that mimics the natural motion of the cilia. All of these positive pressure devices are effective. Which one you choose is really a matter of personal preference. The effects of dry air on nasal passages can be helped with saline sprays such as Simply Saline and NeilMed NasaMist which can help keep the nasal passages moist and mucus moving freely.

Getting Your Skin Ready For Winter
Such a large number of people experience dry, itchy skin in the winter that there is a name for it - winter itch. The most common way to help your skin during cold weather is to apply a moisturizer to replenish moisture lost in winter to dry air, cold, wind, and water. This is certainly a tried and true method of skin relief, but there are many other measures that can be taken to get skin ready when preparing for winter.

Air dries skin in winter because relative humidity, the amount of moisture in the air, is naturally lower in the winter. Then we add to the problem by heating the indoor air and drying it out even more. Raising the humidity will not only help your skin, but you can save money because you won't need as much heat to feel comfortable. Using a humidity monitor is a good way to keep tabs and properly regulate the humidity level. If it is below 35-40%, you can introduce moisture with a humidifier or by setting out pans of water near heat sources to evaporate into the air. And don't forget to check the humidity at work since you are there eight hours a day. (Don't let humidity go above 50% because that much moisture creates a friendly environment for dust mites and mold.)

Water also strips skin of moisture, and people tend to take longer baths or showers in hotter water in the winter because it feels so good. Unfortunately, your skin pays for this luxury. To help your skin:
  • Limit a bath or shower to no more than 15 minutes and use lukewarm instead of hot water.
  • Use bath oil, or when you get out of the bath or shower, pat dry and apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp to hold in the moisture.
  • Avoid harsh soaps such as deodorant soap. Look for shower gels, soaps or soap-free cleansers that contain moisturizer or that are free of added fragrance.
  • A shower filter or bath powder to remove chlorine and other chemicals from the water can be helpful.
  • Only take one bath or shower a day, and remember that usually arms and legs don't even need soaping every day.

Of all the body parts, hands suffer the most from excessive exposure to soap and water. Frequent hand-washing to keep from getting sick can cause red, cracked, and painful skin. Using a cream or lotion at night and sleeping in cotton gloves can really help. Products designed for eczema or psoriasis sufferers can also be very effective for dry, chapped skin.

Another cause of dry skin and winter itch is the tendency to drink less water in winter. It is not hot and/or humid, and we just don't seem to feel as thirsty. However, we still need to drink plenty of water to keep our skin moisturized from the inside out.

In addition, build up of detergent or fabric softener in your clothing or bedding can be a skin irritant. Changing from a powder to a liquid detergent can make a huge difference. Liquid detergents tend to rinse out better and leave less residue. Also, avoid added dyes and fragrances that can be irritating.

Another irritant that sounds obvious once you think of it is the type of clothing you wear. Some fabrics, like wool, can be scratchy and can keep that itch-scratch cycle going. Linen can send me up the wall, too. Know what irritates your skin and avoid it. If everything irritates your skin, you might benefit from wearing specially-developed clothing as undergarments or for sleeping.

Exposure to sun can dry out your skin in addition to increasing your risk of skin cancer, so protect your skin with sunscreen in the winter as well as the summer. Cover your skin as much as possible when outdoors in cold weather - wear hats, scarves, gloves and even masks for adults or children that warm the air you breathe. Wind can also have a drying effect on skin. All those extra clothes you are going to wear to protect you from the sun can do double duty and protect you from the wind, too. And remember to keep the sensitive skin on your lips protected with a lip moisturizer, preferably one containing sunscreen.

Margie Bullock, Newsletter Editor
Closing Thoughts
Summer has been so hot here in the Atlanta area this year that I am looking forward to winter, but I know cold weather will bring its own set of problems. I also know that I can keep myself and my family healthier this winter by making preparations and taking precautions now. Let us know if you have some good tips to share about getting ready for cold weather when you have allergies, asthma, sinus, or skin issues by posting on our Facebook Wall.

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