Weather is a common allergy trigger—so it’s no surprise that winter allergies are typical as it gets colder outside. And allergies in the chillier months are often slightly different than they are other times of the year.
If you notice an increase in itchy and watery eyes and nose, sneezing, wheezing or other allergy-type symptoms during winter, here are some ideas for minimizing or avoiding triggers.
Everyday Signs of Indoor Winter Allergies
Most people don’t have to worry about outdoor allergies as much in the wintertime, since pollen counts are low. However, we spend more time in our homes when it’s cold outside—which increases the amount of winter allergies indoors.
Common indoor allergens that can trigger symptoms during the winter months include:
Dander is tiny particles of dead skin flakes that shed from animals—including pets in the home. In some people, pet dander can trigger winter allergies, especially if you’re spending more time indoors with them.
Mold can be especially prevalent in damp areas of the home, such as bathrooms and basements. Mold spores are pretty much everywhere, but they can cause extra grief for people with allergies. Itching, congestion and sneezing are some common mold allergy symptoms.
Your furnace can kick mold out into the air of your home too, increasing exposure.
According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, dust mites could be the most common year-round allergy trigger. Dust mites are tiny bugs commonly found in the carpeting, bedding and furniture of most homes.
Drier Indoor Environments
When the heater is turned up, the home air gets drier. This can lead to dry skin, dry noses and subsequent nosebleeds—which can further irritate winter allergies.
Tips to Fight Winter Allergy Symptoms
Now that we know some common reasons for winter allergies, what can be done about them? While you probably can’t get rid of them completely, you can make some changes to reduce your exposure to triggers. Here are some things to try:
- Clean your house often: Vacuum, dust and keep your living environment clean as often as possible. A vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter can especially help.
- Wash your sheets in hot water: This can kill dust mites and reduce their symptoms. You can also use hypoallergenic pillow and mattress cases to trap the mites.
- Choose an artificial Christmas tree: Real trees are nice, but they can come with mold and irritating chemicals on them. Consider a pretty artificial tree instead.
- Dust off holiday ornaments before hanging them up, and choose plastic or glass over fabric to reduce dust collection.
- Bathe your pets: Once a week is ideal, but not more frequently than that. This will reduce dander. And although it’s hard for most people (since we all know our pets really rule the home), keeping pets out of the bedroom at night can help reduce allergy symptoms.
- Use a humidifier: If dryness in the air is exacerbating winter allergies, a humidifier can help. Just keep in mind that dust mites and mold are particularly prevalent in warm and humid environments, so try to keep your home below 50 perfect humidity.
- Use saline nose rinses: Rinsing can reduce your risk of getting a secondary viral infection from dry or bleeding nasal passages due to allergies.
- Keep food well-sealed: Crumbs and poorly packaged food can attract cockroaches, which leave droppings that contribute to some allergies. Always pack up leftovers and sweep often to reduce stray food crumbs.
Also, be sure to take care of yourself during the winter months so your body can fight for you. Eat well, incorporate vitamins and supplements as needed, exercise, and practice self-care daily for stress relief.
The Bottom Line
If you’ve tried all of the above and still deal with winter allergies, it’s probably not your fault. Exposure to workplaces and other public areas with allergens can also cause symptoms, so you likely can’t avoid them completely until the season is over.
Speak with your doctor if you’re concerned, take care of your body, and keep your environment as clean as you can. And enjoy your winter holidays!