Allergies even in the winter?

How is it that allergies affect us in the winter?

A friend was complaining about her allergies. I thought after the first hard freeze of the fall or winter, allergies weren’t an issue anymore. I was wrong! And after talking with Lori Scales, M.D., internal medicine and pediatrics physician with Norton Community Medical Associates – Mt. Washington, I learned even more.

Here’s what Dr. Scales had to say about winter allergies:

How is it that allergies affect us in the winter?

For most of us, seasonal allergies are the worst. Springtime allergies attack with the bloom of trees, plants and flowers. Then in the fall the ragweed plant releases its pollen. But once a hard freeze comes along, most outdoor pollens are killed off until spring again. But there are three main culprits of winter allergies: dust mites, mold and pets.

How do dust mites, mold and pets affect my allergies?

As the weather gets colder, we spend more time indoors. And these three allergens are in our homes and can quickly begin to bother us.

  • Dust mites are microscopic bugs that flourish in mattresses and bedding, and they can become airborne.
  • Mold is a fungus that thrives in damp, humid areas such as basements and bathrooms. The mold spores get into the air.
  • Pet dander, saliva and urine are things that also can cause allergies.

What symptoms will I have if I suffer from winter allergies?

The symptoms of winter allergies are very similar to other seasonal allergies and may include:

  • Coughing
  • Dark circles under your eyes
  • Itchy eyes and nose
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes

Several of the symptoms sound similar to a common cold. How do I know if I have a cold or allergies?

The best way to tell the difference is time. A cold will last 10 days or less. So if your symptoms linger past a week to 10 days, it’s probably allergies. The symptoms associated with allergies can last for weeks or even months. Another key indicator for the cold or even the flu is a fever with aches and pains. Typically with allergies you will not have a fever or body aches.

How do you treat the symptoms associated with winter allergies?

There are a few recommendations with over-the-counter medications. Look for an antihistamine to help reduce sneezing, sniffling and itching. If your symptoms include congestion or pressure from swelling of your nasal cavity, consider taking a decongestant. If your symptoms linger or begin to impact your day-to-day activities, it may be time to call your doctor.

Any other helpful tips for battling winter allergies?

Some things you can do around the house include:

  • Change out your shower curtain and watch corners in your bathroom where mold likes to hide.
  • Consider replacing carpet in your home. Carpet can accumulate mold, dust mites and pet dander, making it a hot zone for allergies.
  • Invest in a HEPA air filter or air purifier to remove allergens from the air.
  • Be sure to wash your bedding in hot water (130ºF) each week and use allergy-proof covers on mattresses, pillows and comforters.
  • Give your pets a bath at least once a week.
  • And as much as we love our pets, if you are allergic to pet dander, it will help if your pet sleeps in a separate room. Keeping their bedding away from you is best.

For more information or to find a primary care physician, visit our Find a Doc site or call (502) 629-1234 for a physician referral.


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