What's Going Around

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The new Christmas tree, candles and holly may look nice, but if you have asthma, it could trigger an attack.

Sparrow Hospital health specialists say what's going around are holiday asthma triggers. Dust, mold, and pollen can form on a natural tree, as well as the artificial tree that's been stored all year. Food allergies which are common during the holidays can also trigger an asthma attack, so if you know you have asthma, there are some preventative measures to take.

"People with persistent asthma should follow a maintenance program from their asthma which includes anti-inflammatories or an inhaled steroid," said Dr. Larry Rawsthorne.

In addition to a maintenance program, consult your doctor if you should increase your dosage during the holiday season.

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Indoor Allergies (Perennial)

Molds, dust mites, cockroach droppings, house dust, which carries pet dander, and other indoor substances, can trigger bouts of sneezing, runny nose, and congestion at any time. That's why this type of allergy is called "perennial" (year-round).
Perennial allergies don't come and go with the plant seasons like seasonal allergies do. Since these triggers are indoors instead of outdoors, you may not be able to avoid them. Therefore, you may need ongoing treatment to control perennial allergies.


There are thousands of types of molds, but only a few types trigger allergic reactions. Indoors, molds thrive in dark, damp places such as closets, basements, bathrooms (especially shower stalls), houseplants, air conditioners, mattresses, upholstered furniture, and old foam rubber pillows. Millions of microscopic mold spores can become airborne and enter the nasal lining easily when they are inhaled.

Reduce mold exposure:

  • Use air conditioners or dehumidifiers to reduce dampness and humidity in your home.
  • Clean the air conditioners and dehumidifiers often to minimize mold growth.
  • Keep the kitchen, bathroom, closets, and laundry room well ventilated.
  • Dry off shower walls and the bathroom floor after bathing.
  • Empty and clean garbage pails frequently and toss out stale food.
  • Keep houseplants to a minimum, since watering the plants disperses mold spores into the air.
  • Do not put damp clothes in the laundry hamper.

Dust Mites

Tiny dust mites can be found anywhere house dust tends to collect, especially bedding, upholstered furniture, and carpets. Their waste products, when inhaled, can trigger an allergic reaction.

Dust mites generally thrive in the summer and die in the winter. They can survive all year long in warm and humid homes. To decrease exposure to dust mites:

  • Vacuum and dust surfaces (with a damp cloth) frequently.
  • Cover mattresses, pillows, and box springs with allergen-proof encasings. Clean the outside of the casings regularly with a damp cloth.
  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water; use a dryer rather than line drying.
  • Use hardwood, tile, or linoleum floors rather than carpeting in the bedroom; add washable throw rugs if desired.
  • Avoid furniture that tends to attract dust, such as upholstered chairs, especially in the bedroom. Instead, use vinyl, wooden, metal, or leather chairs.
  • Choose washable toys made of rubber, plastic, metal, or wood for your children. If your children have stuffed animals, wash them regularly in hot water.


Cockroaches often live and die out of sight in urban homes. Their eggs and waste products, as well as the powdery residue of their decomposing bodies, can trigger allergies.

To avoid exposure to cockroach allergens:

  • Keep kitchen areas clean and free of food particles. Keep food covered, preferably in airtight containers.
  • Wash and dry dirty dishes immediately after meals.
  • Empty garbage and trash cans daily.
  • Take newspapers outside before they accumulate. Do not collect paper grocery bags or cardboard boxes.
  • Control moisture and dampness by opening the windows, repairing leaky faucets and pipes, and wrapping pipes with insulation if moisture condenses on the pipes.
  • Exterminate (if living cockroaches are present).


Cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, and other family pets may be great additions to the family, but they can also be a source of misery for allergy sufferers. Inhaling house dust that contains proteins from the animal's dander, saliva, and urine can trigger an allergic reaction. Urine from gerbils, mice, rats, and birds can also cause allergy symptoms. To avoid allergy problems from your pet:

  • Keep your pet outdoors whenever possible. When your pet is indoors, keep it out of the bedroom and away from upholstered furniture, which can collect animal allergens.
  • If you have a hamster, mouse, or other rodent pet, ask an allergy-free person to clean the cage.
  • Wash your pet once a week to reduce the allergens collected in its fur.

Source: http://www.aaaai.org/nab/indoor_allergies.stm (The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology Web site) contributed to this report.