December 1, 2020
Why Are My Allergies Worse In The Winter?
Spring and summer are notorious for triggering allergies, due to the wide variety of grasses, trees, and other plants that release high levels of pollen. In cooler climates, these seasonal allergies usually end with the first hard freeze.
Depending on the kind of allergies you have, however, you may continue to experience a winter allergy season. Here’s why you may be itching and sneezing even in colder months, and how to fight these winter allergens.
What causes winter allergies?
Usually triggered by indoor allergens, winter allergy symptoms can bring morning headaches, congestion, itchy eyes, and a runny nose. You may also experience coughing, postnasal drip and even a sore or itchy throat.
When these types of symptoms occur during colder months, your first guess may be a cold or flu rather than allergies. However, cold symptoms tend to last for 7-10 days, while allergy symptoms will last for as long as you are exposed to the allergen (trigger) if you do not seek treatment. Colds and flu often bring a fever, as well, but allergies never do.
If you have indoor allergies, then the winter allergy season can be even worse than spring or summer allergies. This is because you tend to stay inside during cold weather, increasing your exposure to the winter allergens. Keeping windows and doors tightly shut, with the heating system recirculating indoor air, can also reduce ventilation and allow allergens to build up.
There are three common allergens that can cause winter allergies:
1. House dust mites
Dust mites commonly cause allergies year-round. These microscopic bugs live in house dust, eating the skin cells that people shed. Fortunately, dust mites do not bite or spread disease. However, they do shed droppings and body parts that can build up and trigger winter allergies.
Dust mites prefer warm environments that attract dust, so they may enjoy your cozy winter blankets as much as you do. Bedding and upholstered furniture can be ideal environments for them to feed and reproduce.
2. Pet and animal dander
Pet dander is another common allergen. If your pet cat or dog triggers your allergies, you may not notice it as much if they spend a lot of time outdoors in warm weather. Once the cooler months bring everyone indoors, it increases your exposure to your furry family member’s dander (which can include fur, dead skin, and even dried saliva). This dander can build up more quickly during the winter, particularly in bedding and carpet. Pet dander allergies are more likely to become an issue if your pet sleeps inthe bedroom or bed with you.
Even if you do not have a cat or dog, many smaller pets, such as rabbits or hamsters, can cause pet allergies. You may be allergic to the pet itself, or to something in its cage, such as straw used for bedding or food.
3. Cockroach droppings
Cockroaches often trigger winter allergies in urban locations. The ACAAI, citing the National Pest Management Association, reported that 63 percent of all U.S. homes contain cockroach allergens. This number may increase to 78 percent to 98 percent in cities.
Cockroaches can get into your home through windows and cracks in the walls or doors, seeking warm locations during the cold winter months. Like dust mites, their shed saliva, feces, and body parts can trigger winter allergy symptoms. Prolonged exposure to cockroaches may even lead to sinus or ear infections.
Other winter allergy causes
Live in a warmer climate? You may never fully experience the kind of freeze that causes trees and grasses to stop producing pollen. If you live in an area with year-round growth, you may still experience outdoor allergies in the winter.
Mold may be another cause of indoor allergies and winter allergy symptoms. If you have damp or leaky areas of the home, mold may grow and release the spores that cause mold allergies. Mold may also grow in damp wood, such as cut logs stored outside.
How can I manage winter allergies?
Maintaining a clean home, even during cold winter months, can significantly help reduce your exposure to winter allergens and allergy symptoms.
● Use hypoallergenic covers for mattresses and pillows.
● Wash curtains, sheets, and throw blankets regularly.
● Vacuum rugs and carpets frequently to reduce dust and pet dander. Be sure to sweep under the bed, as well.
● If you have a pet and pet allergies, limit your pet’s access to the bedroom whenever possible. Move pet cages out of your bedroom and into another room.
● Bathe your dog or cat regularly, according to your vet’s instructions. Wash pet bedding and clean their cages frequently.
● Use a premium air filter with your heating system to reduce winter allergies.
● Contact an exterminator if you suspect that cockroaches in your home are triggering your winter allergies. Keep all foods sealed and make sure to clean up all crumbs and spills.
● Address any leaks or damp areas in the home. Clean damp areas to prevent mold and mildew.
● If possible, remove wall-to-wall carpeting, which can create a haven for dust mites and trap pet dander and cockroach droppings. Use area rugs instead.
What treatments are available for winter allergy symptoms?
If you feel like you have done everything you can to address your allergies and still suffer from winter allergy symptoms, there are numerous medications and treatments that may help.
Over-the-counter allergy options include:
● Antihistamines, which counteract the chemical histamine that triggers many indoor allergies.
● Oral or nasal decongestants, which can help address the nasal congestion, stuffiness, and sinus pressure that winter allergies can cause.
● Intranasal corticosteroids, which also reduce nasal allergy symptoms.
● Different allergy eye drops, which can help with dry, red, or itchy eyes.
● Nasal saline solutions, which can relieve the nasal congestion of winter allergies, as well as resolve some of the dryness you may experience during cold weather.
Other, long-term solutions can help resolve indoor allergies and keep you from suffering during winter allergy season. These options include:
● ExACT Immunoplasty℠, which includes three injections given over an eight-week period, and may provide the same amount of relief as 3-5 years of other types of allergy immunotherapy.
● Allergy drops, which usually require just a once-yearly trip to an allergist clinic.
● Allergy shots, which have been a popular option for many years, can be an affordable option for long-term indoor allergy relief.
Have you experienced a winter allergy season? Are you tired of constantly wondering if you have allergies or a cold? You have plenty of options for getting your pet allergies, dust mite allergies, and other indoor allergies under control.
The allergy experts at Aspire Allergy & Sinus are ready to work with you and your family tohelp you find the best solution for your allergy symptoms. Request an appointment to come see us today!