Most people associate allergies with spring and summer, but it’s more common than you think to experience allergy symptoms in the winter. This means that persistent tickle in your throat may not actually be the result of a seasonal cold, but a hidden allergen in your home. Below is an overview of common wintertime allergens and how to minimize your symptoms.
Common Winter Allergens
According to Douglas H. Jones, M.D., of Rocky Mountain Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Group in Utah, “You don’t have pollens in winter, but you still have the indoor [allergens].” Unfortunately, as the cold weather drives us indoors and causes us to close up our houses, this means you’re trapping allergens inside with you.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the most common indoor allergens causing your winter symptoms are:
- Pet dander. Note that it’s the dead skin flakes, not the fur/hair of household pets, that triggers allergic reactions.
- Dust mites. Dust is all around you, and so are the microscopic bugs that feast on it. Dust mites thrive most in your bedding, carpeting and upholstered furniture.
- Indoor mold. Mold spores are inescapable, but for some they are a major source of allergy symptoms. Indoor mold is especially common in bathrooms, kitchens, utility rooms and basements.
- Cockroach droppings. It’s a common misconception that cockroaches are a sign of unhygienic or unsanitary conditions; they can actually live anywhere.
Preventing Winter Allergies
The biggest issue with winter allergies is that winter conditions can exacerbate allergic reactions and turn them into something worse. “People are turning up their heaters, which makes the indoor air even drier,” Dr. Jones explained, “and that leads to dry noses, which increases the incidence of nosebleeds and skin cracking.” All this can boost risk of infection.
While it’s impossible to eliminate allergens entirely, there are strategies for reducing exposure to them in your home.
- To minimize dander: Bathe pets once a week, keep them out of the bedrooms of those with allergies and don’t let them on the furniture.
- To minimize dust mites: Clean, dust and vacuum regularly using a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Wash sheets weekly in hot water and use hypoallergenic cases for pillows and mattresses. Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting and heavy drapes.
- To prevent mold: Maintain a humidity level of under 50%. Check frequently for leaky pipes and ensure your bathroom, kitchen, utility room and basement are well-ventilated.
- To prevent cockroaches: Keep food well-contained and be vigilant about cleaning crumbs and spills.
For more information or to schedule an allergy test, call ENT & Allergy Partners today.