The winter months are a joyous time for many people, but cold weather can be a source of dread for many allergy sufferers. People often associate seasonal allergies with springtime when pollen comes out to play, but winter brings its own seasonal allergy challenges. While the cold weather keeps pollen under control, plenty of allergies lurk indoors.
What Do Winter Allergies Look Like?
Allergies cause your immune system to overreact to harmless environmental substances, called allergens, like pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and food. Seasonal allergies (also known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever) are the most common type. But airborne allergens can result in allergies year round.
Typical allergy symptoms include:
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Stuffy or runny nose
Why Do Some People Have Allergies and Others Don’t?
The short answer is that we don’t know. It may be partly due to genetics and environmental factors. But what we do know is that seasonal allergies are common. About 30% of people in the United States have them.
What Causes Winter Allergies?
Allergies in winter can be caused by indoor allergens like mold, dust mites, pet dander, or even cockroaches. As the weather cools, people spend more time indoors. If you’re allergic, you might be exposed to allergens 24/7.
Winter Allergy Symptoms
Winter is cold and flu season and many people mistake winter allergy symptoms for other winter illnesses. Watch for these common symptoms:
- Itchy skin
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Itchy or sore throat
How to Diagnose and Treat Winter Allergies
If you think allergies are causing your symptoms, you might want to consider taking an allergy test. Taking an allergy test is an easy way to identify what specific allergens are triggering your winter allergies. Pinpointing what you are allergic to will make it easier to limit your exposure to your triggers and find the treatment options that will work best for you.
You can talk to your healthcare provider to get a recommendation to an allergist for allergy testing or you can order an at-home allergy test to take your test from the comfort of your home!
Preventing Exposure to Winter Allergens
One of the most important aspects of any allergy treatment plan is preventing exposure. Here are a few ways you can limit, and sometimes even prevent, winter allergen exposure.
Allergy-Friendly Cleaning Techniques
Keeping your home clean is one of the best things to prevent winter allergic reactions. By making a few changes to how you clean, you can keep allergies at bay.
- Wash your sheets and pillowcases once a week in hot water.
- Dust and wipe down surfaces often using a static duster, spray, or damp cloth.
- Vacuum often to remove animal dander and dust mites.
- Reduce the number of soft surfaces in your home like throw blankets, curtains, and carpeting, as they harbor dust mites.
- Wear a dust mask when cleaning.
- Clean any signs of mold in your home promptly and thoroughly.
- Tend to any damp spots or leaky fixtures in your home immediately.
- Hire an exterminator to deal with pests like mice, rats, or cockroaches.
Use HEPA Filters
HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters are often used in air purifiers and vacuums. If you can, use both. HEPA filters remove 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold spores, and other airborne allergens, providing cleaner air. Vacuums with HEPA filters trap dust and allergens, whereas traditional vacuums stir up allergens.
Use Hypoallergenic Cleaning Supplies and Fabrics
While the term “hypoallergenic” does not mean that a product is allergy-free, choosing hypoallergenic cleaning products can decrease the possibility that they will irritate you while you are eliminating allergens on surfaces throughout your home. Products to look for include:
- Unscented cleaners and detergents
- Anti-allergen sprays
- Dust-trapping cloths
Treating Winter Allergies
Treating allergies isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing, and the same goes for winter allergies. Here are a few of the treatment options:
- Over-the-counter antihistamines like Zyrtec, Claritin, and Allegra
- Eye drops
- Inhaled corticosteroids like Nasacort and Flonase
- Prescription medications like Singulair
The treatments listed above might help manage your symptoms for short-term relief, but they will not treat your allergies for long-term relief. Sublingual immunotherapy retrains your immune system by introducing small amounts of allergens to your body. Through this process, your body becomes desensitized to the allergens and will stop reacting to them when they are present in your environment. Sublingual immunotherapy is just as effective as allergy shots and can be taken from the comfort of your home!
Take Our Allergy Assessment
If you’re doing everything you can and winter allergies are still making you miserable, don’t wait for spring. At Wyndly, our allergy doctors help you find lifelong relief from your allergies. Take our 2-minute online assessment now to see if Wyndly is right for you!