Some allergy sufferers breathe a sigh of relief when colder weather settles in, but for others, allergy symptoms flare. Most commonly, winter allergies are due to substances, such as mold, dust and pet dander. Although you may be allergic to those substances year-round, symptoms are often worse due to spending more time indoors during the cold weather. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), millions of people in the United States suffer from indoor allergies.
While pollen and ragweed, which are common allergens, are reduced in the winter, you may be sensitive to other substances. Although you may also be exposed to the same allergy triggers other times of the year, your exposure may increase in the winter months. Some common causes of winter allergies include those listed below.
Winter allergy symptoms are similar to symptoms during springtime allergy season and may include itching eyes, coughing, sneezing, and congestion. Headaches and fatigue may also plague some sufferers.
Allergy sufferers who also have asthma should be aware asthma symptoms can also become worse in the winter. The cold, dry air may trigger symptoms include wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.
Since colds are also common during the winter months, it can be difficult to determine if symptoms, such as a runny nose, congestion and sneezing are from a cold virus or allergies. According to the Allergy Association of Utah, symptoms of a cold usually run their course in about 10 days. If you are still experiencing symptoms after 10 days, winter allergies may be to blame. For more information, read The Difference Between Allergies And A Cold.
If you are not sure if you are experiencing winter allergies or are getting repeated colds, it is a good idea to start by seeing your doctor or an allergist. An allergist can help determine what substances you are sensitive to. Once you find out what your allergens are, work towards decreasing exposure as much as possible.
In addition to decreasing allergens inside, medications may help reduce symptoms. Most medications used to treat winter allergies contain a decongestant, an antihistamine or both. A decongestant will help unclog your stuffy nose and may reduce headaches associated with congestion. Antihistamines decrease allergy symptoms, such as itchy eyes and sneezing by interfering with the allergic response. Both types of medication are available over the counter but can cause side effects. Read labels carefully, since some allergy medications can cause sleepiness.
Prescription medications that may also be used to treat winter allergies include steroids andbronchodilators. Steroids can help reduce inflammation, which can occur during an allergic reaction. Bronchodilators will help relax the airways and reduce wheezing.
It may be impossible to eliminate all potential winter allergens, but there are several steps you can take to reduce allergy symptoms.
If you have indoor allergies, winter can be the worst time of the year for your symptoms. Although it may be nice to stay warm and cozy inside, spending more time indoors means more exposure to dust, mold and other common indoor allergens. Without fresh air coming in from outside through open doors and windows, substances build up, and allergy symptoms can start. The good news is by taking steps to reduce common allergens in your home; you can decrease exposure and take control of winter allergies.