Winter Allergies

By Heather Legg

I was a little surprised the other day when I was with my friend and she was sneezing and sniffling. Since it’s December, I thought it was a cold. No, she assured me, it was allergies. So what is the story with winter allergies? Here’s a quick Q & A to answer some questions:

How do you know if it is a cold or allergies?
Colds are usually gone in seven days and come with other symptoms, like chills and body aches or colored nasal secretions. Allergies are more sniffly than stuffy and have clear nasal secretions, itchy eyes and throat and may last longer.

Are you at risk for winter allergies?

If you have other allergies, maybe. Though seasonal allergies like pollen won’t be prevalent in the winter, indoor allergies like dust and pet dander will still affect those allergic. Mold allergies may  stick around, but not be as severe in cold weather as they are in hot, humid weather which enables the spores to grow faster.

Should you use a humidifier?
This may depend on your allergies. If you have skin allergies and eczema, the answer is probably yes. Having heat on the winter is very drying to the skin and extra moisture in the air is good. If you have mold allergies, however, you want to keep the humidity down in your home, so a humidifier may not be your best defense.

What about bringing outdoor plants inside?
If you are susceptible to mold allergies, you may want to find another home for your outdoor plants during the winter months (even the garage if you are in a milder climate). Plants can harbor mold spores and unless you consistently remove dead and drying leaves, the plant may aggravate your allergies.  Others argue that plants are good for the air in cleansing and purifying it, so it mostly depends on your specific allergies.

Is there anything different to do in the house for dust mite allergies in the winter months?
Not really, keep cleaning it like in the other months, including covering your mattress and pillows with allergy free casings and changing your sheets consistently. Vacuum and dust on a regular basis, too. With dry skin, dust mites can even become more active.

What can you do because you are inside so much more during the winter months?
The effect of indoor pollution allergies are greater during winter because of the amount of time spent indoors. Make sure regular maintenance is performed on your heating units so dust and mold is not sent into your home when you turn on your heat. Also, an air purifier is a good idea to remove pollutants and allergens.

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