Is My Cold Really Winter Allergies?
Allergies are often thought to be relegated to the warmer months of the year when pollen is plentiful and time spent outdoors is abundant. But the colder months don’t put an end to allergies. If anything, they can awaken different types of allergens and subsequent responses, meaning allergy sufferers don’t get a reprieve.
Approximately 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, including during the winter months. Missed days of school and work cost more than $18 billion annually, making it the sixth leading cause of chronic illness.
While allergies are fairly easy to spot during spring through fall, throughout winter it can be tricky to distinguish between allergy symptoms and a cold. Common winter allergy symptoms look remarkably similar to those from the common head cold: sneezing, runny and/or stuffy nose, coughing, itchy eyes and an irritated throat. Experiencing those symptoms often means sufferers will seek remedies for a cold, but never address the real underlying cause. Those symptoms can also lead to needless sick days and lost productivity.
What exactly causes those symptoms? Time spent indoors with the heat running increases the circulation of common airborne allergens like pet dander, lint, fibers, dust mites, mold and a host of other dust. Some of these proliferate in warm, humid conditions created by HVAC units.
The board certified allergists of Allergy & Asthma Specialists can diagnose allergy triggers and prescribe treatment plans and medication, when necessary. They also recommend taking the following steps to help reduce common winter allergens.
- Keep your pet out of your bedroom
- Vacuum frequently
- Bathe pets frequently
- Consider immunotherapy for long-term relief
- Protect mattresses, box springs and pillows with air-tight protectors
- Wash bedding frequently in hot water
- Use a dehumidifier, especially in the bedroom
- Regularly deep clean carpets and throw rugs
- Keep upholstered furniture clean with frequent vacuuming
- Keep commonly damp spots, like basements and bathrooms clean and dry
- Use special detergents to get rid of surface mold
- Avoid damp buildup by fixing leaks
- When necessary, use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture
- Use a HEPA filter in HVAC units
While many symptoms come as a result of being indoors, allergies and asthma sufferers may also experience symptoms outside in the cold weather, especially during exercise or other labor-intensive activities. This is particularly irksome for winter sports enthusiasts and children. Taking frequent breaks and using a prescribed inhaler can help reduce winter allergy and asthma attacks.
No matter your symptoms, board certified allergists can diagnose allergies versus colds and come up with a treatment plan that allows patients to get back to enjoying winter festivities, symptom-free.