Seasonal Allergies: Which Winter Allergy Triggers Are There?
For some people with allergies, wintertime may mean a long-awaited break in a struggle with annoying allergy symptoms. The weather gets colder, and many outdoor allergens temporarily disappear. However, if you are allergic to some indoor triggers like dust mites, pet dander or mold, your exposure to them nay even increase during winter, since you spend more time indoors.
What Are the Common Causes of Winter Allergies?
Furnace commonly used inside when the weather is cold often releases dust, mold spores and parts of insects into the air. If you breathe those in, you may develop an allergic reaction.
Thus, most common winter allergy triggers include dust mites, mold and animal dander.
Dust mites are tiny, microscopic bugs that are often found in mattresses and bedding. Once their remains get into the air, they trigger your allergy.
Mold is a fungus that accumulates in humid areas (e.g. bathrooms and basements), whose spores may also trigger an allergic reaction, once they become airborne.
People with pet allergies are not actually allergic to the animals themselves or their fur. The allergy symptoms in this case are caused by a protein contained in the animal dander, urine and saliva.
What Are the Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies?
The symptoms that people experience during their allergy seasons are somewhat similar to those of colds and flu and include sneezing, itchy and runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, dark circles under the eyes, as well as coughing.
The difference between allergies and flu and colds is that the latter last no more than ten days, whereas allergy symptoms can be present up to several months. Besides, the symptoms of colds and flu can also include fever and aches or pains, which is not typical for allergies.
How Is Allergy Diagnosed?
If you are having symptoms for more than a week, you are probably allergic to something. You are advised to see an allergist.
He will ask some questions concerning your health history and your symptoms. Then, he will probably conduct a skin test that involves scratching your skin with a small amount of an allergen or injecting it under your skin. In allergic people, the affected skin area gets red and itchy. Some types of allergies are also diagnosed using blood tests.
How Can You Treat Winter Allergies?
Treatment for allergy in winter is the same as for any other seasonal allergy. It involves medication (antihistamines and decongestants) or immunotherapy.
Antihistamines alleviate the symptoms like itching, sneezing and sniffling, while decongestants help to clear the mucus in the nasal passages to reduce congestion and swelling.
Immunotherapy involves taking allergy shots or tablets placed under the tongue, gradually increasing doses of the allergen. This method may be more efficient than allergy medications, as it can provide relief for a longer period.
Can You Prevent Winter Allergies?
Allergies are not curable or preventable, but you can control the condition by taking certain measures. To start with, you can use hypoallergenic pillows and mattresses and allergy-proof covers and blankets. Make sure to wash your bed linen weekly with a hot water. In order to keep the air in your house clean, use a HEPA air filter and a dehumidifier, which helps to minimize dust mites and mold. Clean your bathroom regularly using a 5% bleach solution. If you notice mold on shower curtains, carpeting or wallpapers, you should remove them from your house.
In case you are allergic to animal dander, but you really want a pet, experts advise to consider animals without fur. When you are visiting people who have pets, you should take your allergy medication with you. If you are going to stay overnight, you may want to bring your own pillow, too. If there is already a dog or a cat in your house, keep it out of your bedroom and make sure it has a bath at least once a week.
Tips to prevent an allergic reaction related specifically to the winter holidays include: using an artificial Christmas tree instead of a live one, since it may have mold and various chemicals on it; washing the ornaments before hanging them on the tree; as well as using glass or plastic ornaments instead of fabric ones that tend to collect dust.