December 1, 2020

Why Are My Allergies Worse In The Winter?

Winter allergies are a reality that many people might not immediately associate with the colder months and you might be wondering, "Why are my allergies worse in the winter?" However, just like the familiar seasonal allergies that arrive with spring's blossoms, winter allergies can bring their own set of discomforts. The indoor nature of winter living, coupled with a range of specific allergens, can lead to sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes, and other familiar symptoms. 

In this blog, we'll dive into the reasons behind the surge in winter allergies and discuss steps you can take to prevent and manage these bothersome cold weather allergy symptoms. Understanding why winter allergies occur and implementing effective strategies can go a long way in ensuring a more comfortable and enjoyable winter season.

Allergies in winter

Can you have allergies in the winter?

Yes, it is possible to have allergies in the winter. While many people associate allergies with the spring and fall seasons due to pollen, winter allergies can also be triggered by different factors. Indoor allergens can be particularly problematic during the winter months when people spend more time indoors with less ventilation. 

Additionally, in some regions, certain trees and plants, such as cedar (juniper), release pollen even in the colder months, contributing to winter allergies. Climate plays a significant role in determining the prevalence of winter allergies. Depending on where you live, your climate might be different, which can impact the types of allergens present. For example, areas with milder winters may have higher pollen counts, while colder climates might lead to increased indoor exposure to allergens. Therefore, whether or not you experience allergies in winter months can be influenced by both the local climate and indoor allergen exposure. An easy way to keep up with what allergens are high in your area is with our free allergy calendar

Cold-weather allergy

A cold-weather allergy, also known as cold-induced urticaria or cold urticaria, is a rare condition characterized by an allergic reaction triggered by exposure to cold temperatures. When a person with this allergy comes into contact with cold air, water, or objects, their skin can develop hives, itching, redness, and swelling. In more severe cases, this reaction can lead to difficulty breathing and even anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic response. The body's immune system overreacts to the cold stimuli, releasing histamines and other chemicals that cause the allergic symptoms. This type of allergy can affect the skin, respiratory system, and circulatory system. Cold-weather allergies are relatively rare, but they can significantly impact a person's quality of life during the colder months, prompting the need for careful management and avoidance of cold triggers.

What causes winter allergies?

While outdoor allergens may lessen during the winter, indoor allergens emerge as a significant cause of winter allergies due to the confined living conditions during colder seasons. During the colder months, people tend to spend more time indoors, leading to increased exposure to allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, and indoor pollutants. Dust mites thrive in warm and humid environments often found indoors, triggering allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. Similarly, pet dander can become more concentrated indoors as pets spend more time inside during cold weather. Mold spores, commonly found in damp areas like bathrooms and basements, can also become problematic as indoor spaces are less ventilated in the winter. 

Winter allergy symptoms

Winter allergies come with their own distinct set of symptoms that can disrupt the otherwise cozy and festive atmosphere of the season. These symptoms often mirror those of allergic rhinitis but can be particularly pronounced during the colder months due to increased exposure to indoor allergens. Common symptoms of winter allergies include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Skin rashes or itchiness
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing (in severe cases)

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, which could be months. Colds and flu often bring a fever as well, but allergies never do. If you’re still unsure of what you’re facing, take our cold or allergy quiz to help you fully identify your symptoms. 

Why are my allergies worse in the winter?

Here are some of the most common allergy culprits that could be the reason for your suffering this winter. 

Dust Mites

Dust mites might be small, but their allergenic proteins can cause big reactions. These microscopic creatures produce waste that contains enzymes that can trigger allergic responses in sensitive individuals, leading to symptoms like sneezing, itching, and congestion. Dust mites are microscopic organisms that thrive in warm, humid environments and feed on skin flakes shed by humans and pets. They are a common indoor allergen found in bedding, upholstered furniture, carpets, and curtains. During the winter, when indoor heating systems create a warm and cozy environment, dust mites can multiply, leading to increased exposure to their allergenic proteins. Spending more time indoors in close proximity to these areas can exacerbate allergic reactions, causing symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and skin rashes.

Pet and animal dander

While many people love cuddling with their furry friends, animal dander can lead to allergy symptoms. The proteins found in pet dander can become airborne and settle in our living spaces, causing reactions like watery eyes, runny noses, and even asthma attacks. Pet dander consists of tiny, airborne particles of skin, fur, or feathers shed by animals like dogs, cats, birds, and rodents. These allergens can easily become trapped indoors, particularly in carpets, upholstery, and ventilation systems. As people and their pets spend more time indoors during the winter, the concentration of pet dander can rise, leading to heightened allergic reactions in individuals sensitive to these allergens. Even though pets might not be as prone to shedding during colder months, the reduced ventilation and increased indoor exposure can still trigger allergy symptoms like sneezing, coughing, and congestion.

Cockroach droppings

Cockroach droppings might seem harmless, but they contain proteins that can be a source of allergens. Cockroaches are often found in warm and humid environments like kitchens and bathrooms. During the winter, they seek shelter indoors to escape the cold, and the lack of outdoor food sources can lead to increased cockroach activity within homes. This heightened presence of cockroaches can result in higher levels of allergen exposure, particularly in urban areas. Individuals with cockroach allergies may experience symptoms such as sneezing, skin rashes, and congestion, which can be more pronounced during the winter months when these pests seek refuge indoors.


Mold isn't just a problem for old bread; it can also contribute to indoor allergies. Mold spores can be released into the air and inhaled, causing allergic reactions ranging from mild symptoms like sneezing to more severe issues such as respiratory distress. Mold spores are tiny reproductive particles released by fungi that thrive in damp and humid conditions. Indoor mold growth can occur in areas with moisture issues, such as bathrooms, basements, and kitchens. During the winter, when homes are more sealed and less ventilated to conserve heat, moisture levels can rise in these areas, creating an ideal environment for mold growth. Increased exposure to mold spores indoors can lead to respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and an exacerbation of asthma in individuals who are sensitive to mold allergens.

How can I manage winter allergies?

Here are some tips and tricks that can significantly reduce your exposure to winter allergies and cold weather allergy symptoms.

Managing dust allergies

  • Use allergen-proof bedding covers to reduce dust mite exposure in your sleeping environment.
  • Wash bedding, including sheets and pillowcases, in hot water regularly to kill dust mites.
  • Vacuum with a HEPA filter to trap dust and allergens while cleaning carpets, rugs, and upholstery.
  • Keep indoor humidity levels between 30-50% to discourage dust mite growth.

Managing pet dander allergies

  • Designate pet-free zones in your home, especially in bedrooms and other areas where you spend a lot of time.
  • Bathe and groom your pets regularly to reduce the amount of dander they shed.
  • Use a HEPA air purifier to help filter out airborne pet allergens.

Managing mold allergies

  • Fix any leaks or water damage promptly to prevent mold growth.
  • Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to reduce humidity levels in these areas.
  • Clean and dry damp areas, such as bathrooms and basements, to discourage mold growth.

Managing cockroach allergies

  • Keep your kitchen and dining areas clean and free of food scraps to deter cockroaches.
  • Seal any cracks and crevices in walls, floors, and windows to prevent cockroach entry.
  • Use cockroach traps and baits strategically to reduce their population.
  • If infestations persist, consider consulting a professional pest control service.

What treatments are available for winter allergy symptoms?

If you feel like you have done everything you can to address your allergies but still suffer from winter allergy symptoms, there are numerous medications and treatments that may help. Here are some short-term and long-term treatment options for those who suffer from winter allergies. 

Over-the-counter allergy options

Over-the-counter allergy options, such as antihistamines and decongestants, can provide effective relief from allergy symptoms.


Antihistamines are medications that block histamine, a chemical released during allergic reactions, to relieve symptoms like sneezing, itching, and a runny nose. However, it’s important to remember that antihistamines only mask your allergy symptoms, not treat them. So if you’re really suffering this winter, it might be time to look into long-term treatment options.

Oral/Nasal Decongestants

Oral decongestants reduce nasal congestion by narrowing blood vessels in the nasal passages. Nasal decongestants provide local relief by reducing blood vessel swelling. Nasal congestion and sinus pressure, providing temporary relief.

Intranasal Corticosteroids

Intranasal corticosteroids are steroid medications that help reduce inflammation and swelling in the nasal passages.

Nasal Rinses (Saline Irrigation)

Nasal rinses are a solution of salt and water that is used to flush out irritants and allergens from the nasal passages.

Long-term treatment for winter allergies

Long-term treatments for allergies are often considered superior options because they address the underlying immune system response rather than just alleviating symptoms temporarily. These treatments aim to modify the body's immune response to allergens, leading to reduced sensitivity and fewer symptoms over time. While medications like antihistamines and decongestants provide relief, they may not target the root cause of allergies. Long-term solutions, on the other hand, can lead to lasting improvements in the quality of life for allergy sufferers.

Allergy Shots

Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, involve a series of regular injections of allergens to desensitize the immune system. Aspire Allergy & Sinus provides personalized allergy shot treatments. These shots work by gradually exposing the immune system to increasing amounts of allergens, prompting it to develop tolerance over time. This treatment can be effective for winter allergies by reducing the severity of symptoms like sneezing, congestion, and itching.

Allergy Drops

Allergy drops, or sublingual immunotherapy, are placed under the tongue and are an alternative to shots. Aspire Allergy & Sinus offers personalized allergy drop treatments. These drops work in a similar way to allergy shots, training the immune system to tolerate allergens gradually. They can be particularly beneficial for winter allergies by reducing allergic reactions to indoor allergens like dust mites and pet dander. 

ExACT Immunoplasty

ExACT Immunoplasty is a cutting-edge treatment offered by Aspire Allergy & Sinus. It involves controlled exposure to allergens through small injections. This treatment helps the immune system learn to tolerate allergens without triggering significant reactions. ExACT Immunoplasty can effectively target winter allergies, providing relief from symptoms associated with dust mites, mold, and other indoor allergens. 

FAQs about allergies in the winter

Explore answers to some of the frequently asked questions about winter allergens.

How do you fix winter allergies?

Winter allergies can be effectively managed and improved with personalized treatment options available at Aspire Allergy & Sinus. We understand that winter allergies can be bothersome, and our goal is to help you find lasting relief. We offer a range of allergy treatments tailored to your specific needs. These include allergy shots, allergy drops, and our advanced ExACT treatment. 

Are mold allergies worse in the winter?

Yes, mold allergies can indeed be worse during the winter months for some individuals. While outdoor mold spore counts tend to decrease in cold weather, indoor mold can become a significant issue. In winter, homes are often sealed tightly to conserve warmth, which can lead to increased humidity levels in indoor spaces. Moisture-prone areas like bathrooms, kitchens, and basements can become breeding grounds for mold growth.

Why are my allergies so bad in the winter?

Your allergies can worsen in the winter due to spending more time indoors with indoor allergens like dust mites, pet dander, and mold. Closed windows and reduced ventilation can concentrate these allergens, leading to increased symptoms. Exploring effective management strategies and treatments tailored to your triggers can help alleviate your winter allergy discomfort.

Does cold weather make allergies worse? 

Cold weather itself might not worsen allergies, but spending more time indoors during colder months can expose you to indoor allergens like dust mites, pet dander, and mold. These allergens can become more concentrated indoors, potentially intensifying your allergy symptoms. Identifying your specific triggers and adopting effective indoor allergy management strategies can help mitigate the impact of cold weather on your allergies. 

Learn How to Manage Cold Weather Allergy Symptoms

It's essential to recognize that winter allergies are a real and often underestimated concern. The seemingly tranquil winter months can bring about a range of discomforting symptoms due to indoor allergens. By understanding why these allergies occur and implementing preventative measures, you can significantly improve your winter experience. However, if you find yourself struggling to manage your winter allergy symptoms effectively, don't hesitate to reach out to us at Aspire Allergy & Sinus. Book your appointment today with our expert allergists, who are dedicated to helping you breathe easier and enjoy the season to the fullest. Your comfort and well-being matter, and we're here to provide the guidance and personalized care you need.

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