What You Need to Know About Winter Allergies

There’s a lot to love about winter — sweater weather, holiday parties, and a break from typical allergies caused by things like pollen.

Unfortunately for some, this change in seasons also triggers new allergic reactions.

Winter allergies, most often caused by mold and dust mites, can heighten when we spend more time indoors, specifically during the winter months.

Infographic of causes, signs, symptoms, treatments and prevention tips for winter allergies.

 

Types of Allergens

When you turn on your furnace to warm up the house, these allergens become airborne, accelerating exposure to them:

  • Dust Mites: These microscopic bugs live in household dust. They can be found in anything soft around the house, including blankets, pillows — even children’s stuffed animals.
  • Mold: A fungus that grows inside your home, mold often lurks in dark, damp spaces like basements and bathrooms.
  • Animals: Dog and cat allergies are not triggered by pet fur, but rather a protein found in animal skin cells, saliva, and urine.

Possible Signs of Winter Allergies

The symptoms of winter allergies are similar to the flu or a cold. But if those symptoms last more than a week to 10 days, allergies are probably to blame for them.

That said, if your symptoms come with a fever, aches, and pains, then it’s more likely a cold or the flu. 

Below are some common symptoms of winter allergies:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itchy eyes
  • Coughing
  • Scratchy throat

When to See Your Doctor

If you’re experiencing the above symptoms of winter allergies for more than a week, or they’re affecting your daily quality of life, it’s probably time to call the doctor.

He or she may refer you to an allergist, who can perform a skin test that checks your reaction to specific allergens.

When you know what you’re allergic to, you can minimize your exposure and get back to feeling better.

How to Treat Winter Allergies

If you suffer from winter allergies, then you know they’re no fun, especially because the symptoms last longer than they do with the average cold.

For relief, try taking an over-the-counter antihistamine to reduce sneezing, sniffling, and itching.

Decongestants can clear mucus and relieve congestion and swelling.

Can You Prevent Winter Allergies?

The bad news is winter allergies aren’t preventable. The good news is, if you know you’re sensitive to certain types of allergens, you can take steps to avoid a reaction:

  • Wage a war on mold by throwing out shower curtains, wallpaper, and carpeting that have it; washing showers and sinks with a solution containing 5 percent bleach and detergent; and using a dehumidifier to keep the humidity in your home below 50 percent.
  • Combat dust mites by using a HEPA air filter; washing bedding in hot water (130 degrees Fahrenheit) weekly; and using allergy-proof covers on mattresses, pillows, and comforters.
  • Control pet allergies by adopting fur-less animals like goldfish. If your life just isn’t complete without a cat or dog, then don’t let it sleep in your bedroom (if you can help it!) and give it a bath at least once a week. If you’re visiting friends or relatives who have furry friends, take allergy medication beforehand, and bring your own pillow and blanket if you are staying overnight.