Five Causes of Winter Allergies and Five Ways to Prevent Them
Guest Blogger: Myke Thomas
Allergies. That one word says so much to allergy sufferers around the world. The tell-tale itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and itchy throat. You may constantly feel congested and run down. You may even suffer from a chronic cough and congestion from September through May. While many people don’t think of winter as an allergy season, for sufferers of winter allergies, it seems to be a season wrought with being sick all season and never feeling like you can shake whatever is going around. The first thing to getting on track to feeling better and conquering your allergies is to make an appointment with an Allergist. From there, you can determine what is causing your winter misery and how to get over them.
Winter Allergies: Top 5 Culprits
1. Summer Allergens
Yes, you read that correctly. Just because the plants and pollen that contribute to spring and summer allergies have gone does not mean the allergens themselves have disintegrated with the colder weather. Pollen, dust, etc., can linger in ventilation systems. Whether they are trapped in your air filter or lurking in the ventilation ducts themselves, they can be blown around the home where they are breathed into your lungs and sinuses, causing a resurgence of summer allergies in the dead of winter.
How to Avoid Them
Before you fire up the furnace for the year, spend a couple of dollars on buying a new air filter. Even if you sprang for a more expensive filter that catches fine particulate matter and is approved for allergen relief, minute particles can still be enough to exacerbate your old summer allergies. Replacing the filter regularly is a good habit to get into if you suffer from any type of seasonal allergies, but can be particularly helpful in avoiding a resurfacing of your summer allergy misery when the furnace gets turned on. If your allergies are particularly bad, you may want to pay to have your ventilation system cleaned out completely. Many companies specialize in air duct cleaning, and this can be a great way to prevent old allergens from lurking unseen and ready to flare up when you least expect them to.
Mold is a BIG culprit for allergy sufferers. It is a particularly strong allergen that can cause a lot of discomfort. It is particularly strong in the winter when there is less sun and heat. This means many environments are more damp throughout the colder months, and mold has the opportunity to really grow and multiply. It is more prevalent in older buildings, basements, and crawlspaces, but newer structures are not immune to the growth of mold, either.
How to Avoid It
It may be difficult to find sources of mold, but you can make some real headway by using cleaners in damp, dark areas of your home. This can really help to alleviate a lot of the discomfort associated with winter mold allergies. If you get a live evergreen to celebrate the holidays in your home, be aware that mold can often grow in the water you keep in the base to help keep your tree fresh. Mold also can grow within the trunk and branches of live trees—particularly if they get damp or covered with snow in an outdoor tree lot. You may want to consider an artificial tree in your home if the holiday tree seems to irritate your allergies.
3. Pet Dander
Pet dander can be an allergen all year round, but it often becomes intensified during the winter. There are a few reasons why this happens: dogs and cats begin to shed their summer coats and grow a thicker undercoat in the winter. This undercoat is often very fine and lightweight, making it more likely to become airborne. Like their human counterparts, pets will often suffer from dry skin in the winter as well. This often means they will scratch, and their skin will flake off more easily, contributing to a higher rate of allergies.
How to Prevent It
Having your pet groomed regularly will help alleviate a lot of extra shedding and scratching. Regular brushings will help improve circulation to your pet’s skin, which will help prevent dryness. It will also help remove some of the fine undercoat that is likely to shed and cause allergic reactions.
It seems odd that perfumes would be more prevalent in the winter months, but they are. Not only are people using far more moisturizers to keep their skin from becoming too dry (which are often laden with perfumes), but perfumes are often worn prior to holiday parties. When people are getting decked out to look their best for the company party, they often spritz on a dash of their favorite fragrance. While they may smell alluring to some people, the alluring aroma can cause your allergies to go haywire.
How to Avoid Them
It can be hard to avoid perfumes and fragrances everywhere you go. You can, however, ask coworkers, friends, and family to avoid wearing perfumes when you are going to be with them. Check labels on the moisturizers and products you buy for your home as well, so that you can avoid inadvertent allergy flare-ups.
People can have reactions to foods that resemble seasonal allergies. A huge culprit during the holidays is nuts. Between holiday baking and decor, there is often some fine dust floating around that can cause coughing, itchy eyes, and a runny nose. Even if it isn’t a serious allergy that results in anaphylaxis, it can be enough to make you feel miserable in the winter months.
How to Avoid Them
Keep nuts out of your house whenever possible. Inspect packaging and read labels to determine if what you are buying has been processed in a place that processes nuts as well. Other common food allergies are wheat and dairy, so keep your eyes out for these possible irritants and make note of any symptoms you may experience after consuming or handling these types of products so that you can avoid them in the future.
Winter allergies can be unbearable. Most people think that once the sunny, hot days of summer are behind them, they are free of seasonal allergens. While this may be the case for some people, for people who suffer from winter allergies, there is a whole new slew of symptoms that arise with the colder weather. The best thing you can do is to see an Allergist to help determine the cause of your winter allergies. Once you identify the sources of your winter allergies, you can go to work to begin preventing them.
About the Author
Myke Thomas is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. His blog at www.metroeastallergist.com focuses on health bloggers and fitness bloggers.