17 Steps to Minimize Winter Allergies. People think that allergy season only happens in the spring and fall. And it is true that freezing temperatures bring an end to pollen allergies. But we can still be allergic to indoor allergens like mold, animal dander, and dust mites.
Common Symptoms of Winter Allergies:
Some common symptoms of indoor, winter allergies are sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, coughing and postnasal drip, and itchy eyes, nose and throat.
If you experience a fever and achiness, it’s more than likely a cold or flu. But symptoms shouldn’t last more than 10 days for a cold or flu.
Other winter allergy symptoms include sinus headaches, bronchitis, shortness of breath, asthma, itchy or watery eyes, runny nose and dark circles under the eyes.
Why do I have allergies in the winter and what can I do about it?
Dust and Allergens
Furnaces force the circulation of airborne dust that contains lint, fabric fibers, bacteria, food particles, and animal dander. The most common types of winter allergies are dust mites, animal dander and mold.
Dust mites thrive in humid environments and are more prevalent in bedrooms, mattresses, pillows and bedding. Fecal particles from dust mites become airborne, and patients can suffer from symptoms of allergies year-round.
Our cats and dogs can be a huge cause of allergy problems in the winter. Cats and dogs have many identified allergens. These allergens are found inside homes, workplaces, and schools even when there are no pets living there.
Indoor molds are another big cause of allergies in the winter. Mold thrives in damp, humid environments. Especially basements and bathrooms. Specific outdoor molds that are prevalent outdoors can also be brought inside.
17 Steps to minimize winter allergies.
- Before turning on the heat, it is important to make sure that the vents have been cleaned. Dust mites, mold spores, and pet dander can all travel in the air once the heat is kicked on.
- During the winter holidays we can be ahead with decreasing allergen burden by considering an artificial Christmas tree, washing dust off of ornaments before hanging, as well as considering glass/plastic ornaments instead of fabric.
- While visiting the homes of loved ones this holiday season consider bringing allergy medication as well as your own pillow!
- If you are experiencing winter allergy symptoms such as coughing, itchy eyes/nose, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, for more than a week, it is a good idea to visit an allergist. An allergist will be able to perform an allergy test. Based on test results, various treatment options including antihistamines, intranasal steroids, decongestants, or immunotherapy (allergy shots or sublingual tablets) may be offered.
- Mites have a decreased survival and reproduction rate when the humidity is below 50%. Therefore, it is recommended that patients allergic to dust mites maintain humidity between 35% and 50% to decrease growth of dust mites.
- You can also use a mite allergen proof mattress, box spring and pillowcases to decrease exposure to dust mites.
- Regular vacuuming with cleaners and filters that have a high-efﬁciency particulate air (HEPA) ﬁltration or with a central house vacuum with good ﬁltration that vents to the outside. This will decrease exposure to dust mite allergens.
- It is important to be careful raking leaves and increasing exposure to mold spores. Using strong cleaners in the bathroom like Clorox and Lysol can be beneficial to prevent mold growth.
- Remove wall to wall carpeting. Especially if it’s over concrete. Dander and molds become trapped in carpet and rugs. Dampness can occur and create an environment for dust mites and mold.
- Minimize contact with pets and keep them out of bedrooms to reduce the amount of contact with their dander especially when sleeping.
- Bathe pets regularly. Wash away dander and allergens from their fur.
- Change clothes, wash hair after playing with pets or raking leaves or coming in direct contact with heavy allergens.
- Wash bedding in hot water 130 degrees once a week to reduce allergens in bedding.
- Down pillows and comforters form a nice habitat for dust mites and can be allergenic. So, they are best to be avoided.
- Clean regularly with a damp mop for hardwood floors to avoid stirring up dust.
- Wipe down wet surfaces in the bath and kitchen to prevent mold. Good insulation can help cut down on mold by reducing condensation.
- If you are the one suffering from winter allergies, have someone else do the dusting and vacuuming. Leave the house while it is being done.
See a board-certified allergy and asthma specialist
When over the counter antihistamines and decongestants are not successful, seeing a board-certified allergy and asthma specialist is a great way to access the cause and figure out the appropriate treatment plan. Living without winter allergies is within reach with the help of a Colorado ENT and Allergist.