Winter Allergies Explained
When the winter season comes, many of us start having some annoying symptoms like sniffling or sneezing. In most cases, the symptoms are caused by colds and they usually go away after a few days. But what if your cold symptoms stay much longer? This means that you are likely dealing with winter allergies.
What’s the Difference Between Colds and Winter Allergies?
Winter allergies symptoms have a lot in common with colds: stuffed nose, sneezing, watery eyes, etc. Therefore, it can be difficult to give an accurate diagnosis at first sight. However, after some time, the cause of your symptoms becomes clear.
According to specialists, the main difference between colds and allergies is that allergy symptoms are present for much longer periods. While colds normally disappear after three to seven days, allergies can persist for several weeks. The symptoms of allergies may also be intermittent.
There are also other factors that help to distinguish between the two conditions. Thus, in case of winter allergies, nasal secretions are usually watery and clear, while colds often cause discolored nasal secretions. Besides, itchy eyes and throat are the symptoms typical for allergies, whereas chills and body aches are rather related to colds.
If you think that you might be affected by a winter allergy, below, we provide you with some practical information about this condition.
Are You at Risk for Winter Allergies?
According to allergists, people who suffer from allergy symptoms during summer season are also likely to develop them in winter. It might seem unfair, but the reason is simple. A lot of allergy triggers that affect you in warm seasons are still present during winter. Since the temperatures are low, we tend to spend more time indoors with the windows closed and the heater on, which increases our exposure to such allergens as pet dander, mold or mildew.
What Triggers Winter Allergy Symptoms?
In order to manage the symptoms of winter allergies, you first need to determine the triggers that are causing the reaction.
In most cases, winter allergies are triggered by the same allergens that affect you in summer. However, the activity of these triggers can be actually more intense during winter.
Thus, the most common winter allergy triggers include dust mites, pet dander, mold, mildew, damp wood and temperature climates.
When it comes to pet dander, you are more exposed to this allergen in winter, since pets spend more time indoor due to cold weather. Therefore, your allergy symptoms may be more severe during this season.
Mold and mildew are also common in winter, since they often tend to spread in decaying leaves or some other yard waste. Mold spores also tend to accumulate in damp cut wood stored outside. These allergens can be easily brought indoors through your shoes and clothes.
In places with milder climates, the allergy triggers like pollen are present all year round, since there are almost no frosts or hard freezes. This means that people with allergies living there will have the symptoms no matter the season, while those traveling to these places will experience an increase in their allergies.
Speaking about other potential triggers, such holiday season “essentials” as Christmas trees, scented candles and fires do not actually trigger an allergic reaction. These are just irritants that may intensify already existing symptoms, but not cause them. However, an allergen like mold can often grow on trees, which is why you may have allergy symptoms.
Therefore, if these things seem to worsen your symptoms, you should probably replace your natural Christmas tree with a fake one, or even switch to electric fires.
How Can You Manage Winter Allergies?
When it comes to the treatment of seasonal allergies, there are several tips that help to prevent or alleviate the symptoms.
Avoid allergy triggers. Avoiding the cause is the best tactic in managing winter allergies. You should try to avoid your allergy triggers, for instance, by staying indoors on a windy day when mold spores from damp leaves is present in the air. You should also clean your house frequently to keep the indoor triggers at low.
Always wash away the allergens. You should wash your hands and face regularly during the day to decrease the amount of allergens you carry on your own body. It is also a good idea to change your clothes and take a shower, since it can help to eliminate allergens in your hair and clothes. Besides, the steam of a hot shower helps to alleviate sinus congestion and other allergic symptoms.
Change your bedding frequently. The concentration of such allergens as dust mites and animal dander is probably the highest in the bedroom. To reduce these allergens, you are recommended to wash your bed sheets, pillowcases and blankets with hot water, at least twice per month.
Acquire special bed linen. There are special “allergy beddings” available on the market, whose surface is supposed to be less permeable to even microscopic allergens.
Try irrigation with saltwater. Many specialists recommend using a saline solution for the nasal congestion. The solution is available in most pharmacies. You can also prepare your own saltwater using one teaspoon of non-iodized salt and eight ounces of water.
Keep yourself hydrated. Allergy symptoms may indirectly lead to dehydration. Therefore, it is recommended to drink more water (consider carrying a water bottle with you), and eat more water-rich fruits and veggies. Drinking hot drinks can also help to relieve nasal congestion.
Keep the air moisturized. While dry air may irritate your nose and throat, the air that is too moisturized may lead to mold and mildew growth. You can determine the level of moisture in your house using a hygrometer, which is a humidity monitor that is also quite cheap. You can also adjust the monitor with your humidifier or dehumidifier. Specialists claim that the perfect humidity for the indoor air is 30-50%.
Use medication for allergies. You can treat your symptoms like itchy eyes or nasal congestion with special allergy drugs, that are available both over the counter or by prescription. However, it is important that you make sure to follow the instructions on the label. When not used right, these medications will not produce much effect. Specialists recommend starting to take the allergy drugs before the symptoms occur.
Winter allergies are a common problem that affects over 40 million Americans. If lifestyle changes and over-the-counter treatments do not seem to work, you will likely need to consult an allergist.