Just when you begin to breathe a sigh of relief that you’ve made it through the fall allergy season, your allergies during winter kick in.
While dealing with allergies is never fun, there are several things you can do to help alleviate the situation during the colder months.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at several common winter allergy symptoms and causes as well as some proven strategies for prevention and treatment.
By the end, you’ll have everything you need to kick winter allergies to the curb.
For example, an air purifier can help remove the airborne allergens that are causing your symptoms. There are many types available and our best air purifier for allergies page helps you find the right one for your needs.
Top Winter Allergy Symptoms
If you suffer from any of the various winter allergy symptoms listed below, then you may have noticed that they seem to be alleviated whenever you step outside.
This isn’t by chance.
It’s due to the fact that in most areas the cold air and inclement weather sends people indoors and it’s actually the indoor allergens that are the source of their allergic reactions.
In other words, you’re just being exposed to the indoor allergies winter version.
If you’re consistently experiencing any of the following symptoms while inside your home (or any other indoor space), then it’s likely a sign that you’re actually suffering from an indoor allergy this winter:
- Sneezing and nasal congestion
- Dry cough
- Itchy skin, nose, throat, or eyes
- Irritation or itching in the ear
- Difficulty breathing
- A skin rash
- Feeling weak, tired or under the weather
- Low-grade fever
- Tightening of the chest
Causes of Allergies During Winter
There are actually a wide variety of indoor allergens that can trigger symptoms during the winter.
These allergy symptoms can be made worse with the use of a centralized home heating system since allergens can be spread via the system’s duct network.
Here are four of the most common indoor allergens that could be the source of your winter allergies:
- Dust — A “dust allergy” is by far the most common indoor allergy. But, it’s not the actual dust particles themselves that you are allergic to; it’s the dust mite waste that are in them. Dust mites are microscopic organisms that feed off the dust in your home and the moisture in the air. They’re generally found in your linens and upholstered furniture, as well as rugs, carpets, and curtains.
- Pets — Your furry friend may actually be the source of your allergy woes. But, contrary to popular belief, your pet’s hair is not the biggest problem; even though it could carry pollen or mold spores from outside into your home. Most people have allergic reactions to the flakes of dead skin, saliva and/or urine that make up what’s called “dander”. As anyone with a dog or cat knows, these things can get everywhere: beds, carpets, and upholstery. If it’s more severe in the winter, it’s probably due to the fact that you and your pets are spending more time inside.
- Mold — Mold colonies will rapidly expand when exposed to dark and damp areas that have limited access to airflow, such as bathrooms, basements, and under sinks. A mold allergy occurs when you breathe in airborne mold spores, and your immune system overreacts, treating them as an allergen. In the winter, mold can become a serious issue for your allergies since it’s thriving in an enclosed space (i.e. no open windows or doors).
- Cockroaches — Cockroaches are a pretty common household pest that are drawn to dark, damp areas, such as under the kitchen sink. The saliva, feces, eggs and body parts of cockroaches can cause an allergic reaction when they become airborne and are breathed in. And just because you don’t see these pests in your home, doesn’t mean they’re not there. Cockroaches don’t like direct light and stay hidden throughout the day.
Or, maybe you just have a cold…
Perhaps you actually have a cold and it’s not really an allergy that you’re experiencing.
The difference between a cold and an allergy is that colds are the result of a virus, whereas allergies are the result of your body’s release of histamine after allergens enter your respiratory tract.
Colds tend to disappear after a few weeks, once your body has gotten rid of the virus, but allergy symptoms will persist as long as you’re breathing in allergens. That’s why your winter allergies may not seem to ever go away.
How to Prevent Your Indoor Allergies Winter Appearance
The best way to relieve winter allergy symptoms is to take preventive measures against them before they get too severe.
Here are a few things you can do to help minimize your exposure to the indoor allergens mentioned above:
- Clean out the dust — According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, you should clean your home from dust with a damp cloth and a vacuum cleaner at least once a week, and if possible, twice a week.
- Get an air purifier — An air purifier can help you filter out the allergens and dust from the air. It can also reduce your need to dust as often, which is never a bad thing. There are many brands and models of air purifiers that rely on different technologies to clean the air around them. Check our best air purifier for allergies page to determine which type makes the most sense for you and your budget.
- Do more laundry, more often — Wash your clothes and linens at least once a week, and clean upholstery with plenty of soap and hot water.
- Prevent moisture buildup — Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture in the air. High levels of moisture cause mold and mildew to grow. Fix any leaks in your bathroom, plumbing, and roof, and seal cracks and leaks in your foundation and walls to prevent groundwater seepage.
- Get rid of mold — Clean any areas that show existing mold growth with bleach or Concrobium.
- Keep furry pets outside as much as possible — If the weather or other circumstances prevent you from keeping them outside, then make sure your pets are prevented from entering the main living areas, such as bedrooms or your living room. You may like to cuddle your pet at night while you sleep, but preventing pet dander buildup in your bed is important to reducing your winter allergies.
How to Treat Winter Allergies
If you are suffering from indoor allergies during winter, and the prevention strategies mentioned above don’t completely take away the problem, then the good news is there are several allergy treatments to choose from.
Here is a rundown of are some options to medically treat your winter allergies:
- Antihistamines — There are several over-the-counter antihistamines that can be purchased at your local pharmacy, including Allergra and Zyrtec. These medicines can relieve symptoms, such as sneezing, congestion, and itching.
- Decongestants — Prescription-strength steroidal nasal sprays can help relieve congestion and even swelling.
- Immunotherapy — If your allergies are particularly severe, then you may be a good candidate for an allergy shot. This is a long-term treatment that works by exposing your body to small amounts of the allergen in order to build up a healthy immune response. Talk to your doctor to see if immunotherapy is right for you.
Keep in mind that using medication to treat your allergies is just a temporary fix. Over-the-counter meds and prescriptions don’t actually cure the source of the problem.
That’s why following the advice mentioned in the prevention section is still important to do alongside taking medications.
If you do see a doctor about your condition, ask the physician about the effectiveness of using an air purifier along with your allergy prescription. That person will likely recommend you get an air purifier that includes a True HEPA filter, which is explained more in-depth in our linked page at the beginning of this guide.
In summary, if you’re suffering from allergies during winter, you’re most likely reacting to indoor allergens. While you may not be able to spend more time outside, there are several things you can do to keep those winter allergy symptoms at bay.