For many allergy sufferers, the cold temperatures of winter can mean a break from their seasonal allergies. When the temps are regularly dipping to freezing or below, you don’t have to worry about pollen getting in the way of your life.
But that doesn’t mean that winter allergies don’t exist or that some people aren’t going to be allergic to certain things during the winter. For winter allergy sufferers, the allergens typically move indoors. You might not be exposed to tree, flower or grass pollen during the colder months of the year, but there are several other allergens that can take the place of pollen.
Common Winter Allergens
Typically, the allergens that will make you miserable in the winter are found inside the home, rather than out. Some of the more common winter allergy culprits include the following:
- Dust mites
- Pets (dander and saliva)
Dust mites are tiny bugs that typically live anywhere there’s dust, such as carpets, mattresses, and upholstery. People who are allergic to dust mites can suffer a reaction to the remains of dead mites or to the droppings left by the mites. Along with being allergic to dust mites, you might also be allergic to just plain old dust. If your home has forced air heat, dust can be a big problem in the winter, as the hot air flowing through various ducts and vents in your home might kick up and blow dust around.
Mold is another all too common allergen in the winter. Mold can get into your home in a few ways. First of all, it can grow in areas of the house that are usually damp, such as your bathrooms or a dark corner of the basement. The mold produces spores, which can travel through the air and trigger allergy symptoms in allergic people. Another way that mold can get into your home is if you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove and you bring in moldy, rotting firewood.
Pets, particularly the dander and saliva they produce, can lead to allergies at all times of the year. But if you’re allergic to your pet, you might notice that symptoms are worse in the winter when you’re both locked indoors together for longer periods of time.
Finally, cockroaches, as gross as it sounds, can be a common allergen in homes that have an infestation. More people than you might think are allergic to cockroaches. The bugs are a particularly big problem in older homes and buildings.
Winter Allergies vs. the Common Cold
Plenty of people sniffle and sneeze their way through winter, thanks to the higher prevalence of colds during the colder months. So how can you be sure that your symptoms are caused by allergies and not the common cold?
One way to tell is to pay attention to how long your symptoms last. Colds usually last for about a week, then they’re done. Allergies are more persistent and will stick around for 10 days, if not longer.
Another way to tell the difference between winter allergies and a cold is to pay attention to the symptoms you’re experiencing. Colds typically produce a colored mucous while the secretions produced by allergies are thinner and clear in color. You’re also more likely to feel aches and chills with a cold than you are with allergies.
How to Cope With Winter Allergies
You have several options when it comes to coping with allergies in the winter. One of the more effective options is to reduce your exposure to the allergen that causes your symptoms. That can mean regularly cleaning your home to remove dust and dust mites, installing a filter on your furnace to keep dust from blowing through your home, and getting rid of items that are dust-magnets. In the case of mold, it can mean installing and running a dehumidifier in your bathroom and basement to reduce mold growth.
Pets can be trickier, as you might not want to part with your companion, even if they are making you miserable. You can try to limit your exposure to the pet, such as by keeping him or her out of the bedroom and not sleeping in the bed with your pet at night.
Allergy shots might be an option if your symptoms are particularly bad and if there’s no way to reduce exposure to the allergens.
ABOUT DR. RUBINSTEIN
Dr. Rubinstein has nearly sixteen years of experience in helping patients with sinus problems and allergies in the Hudson Valley. A board certified facial plastic surgeon and board certified otolaryngologist, he has extensive knowledge of laser procedures, facial plastic surgery, and nasal and sinus treatments, which allows him to improve aesthetics as well as functionality of the nose and facial features. Dr. Rubinstein received his board certifications through the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. If you think you might have a winter allergy, schedule an appointment with Dr. Rubinstein at the Hudson Valley Sinus Center by calling 845-562-6673.