Our Guide to Allergies in the Winter: What Causes Them, and How to Prevent Them
When people think allergies, they tend to think of the spring and fall. But winter brings its own unique set of challenges for some allergy sufferers, many of which are the result of spending more time indoors than usual.
Here’s what you need to know about what may cause allergies during the winter, and what you can do to prevent them.
What Causes Allergies in Winter?
Just because summer and fall have turned to winter doesn’t mean that allergies are a thing of the past. Now that you’re spending more time indoors, common household triggers like dust mites, pet dander, and mold can cause the same symptoms as tree pollen does in the spring. Allergies in winter can be just as severe as hay fever experienced in warmer months, and they’re tougher to identify this time of year because they’re easily misdiagnosed as a cold or a flu. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, three out of 10 adults suffer from nasal allergies. For children, four out of 10 suffer from seasonal allergies.
Even if you experience allergies in December or other winter months, it doesn't mean you don't have options. Here are some simple ways to treat and prevent allergies in winter.
How to Prevent Allergies in Winter
- Open Your Windows once a week: When the temperature drops, the heat is on -- literally. Unfortunately, most heating systems don't just put out warm air. Mold can easily circulate once you turn on your furnace. If you rarely open your windows, these airborne irritants remain in your living space where they can wreak havoc on you or your family's respiratory system.
- Bathe Fido and Fluffy: Pets are a perennial cause of indoor allergies, causing sniffs and sneezes galore for the allergy sufferers in your home. The protein in pet dander, saliva and urine is the main cause of allergic reactions to animals, not simply their fur. Washing your furry family members on a regular basis will reduce their ability to irritate, but don't overdo it: Washing once a week is the perfect balance for controlling allergens without irritating your pet’s skin. And try to get someone in your family who is not allergic to pets to wash them.
- Dust 3x a Week: Dust mites may not be visible to the naked eye, but they can make their presence known. And like fellow perennial irritant pet dander, dust mites and their waste can be a trigger for your allergies in the winter. One of the best methods for combatting allergies in the winter from dust mites is placing mattresses, pillows and box springs in protective cases which can trap dust mites where they are and prevent new ones from settling into the fibers of your bedding.
- Change Your Clothes after Outdoor Activity: Some pollinators such as ragweed are active in cooler months. Trees can produce pollen at any time of year. Milder winters create more vegetation, which expels pollen into the air.
- Monitor your Home’s Humidity: Make sure that your home isn't a veritable greenhouse for growing mold by keeping humidity levels under 50 percent. Consider buying an inexpensive indoor humidity monitor at any hardware store – for around the price of a cappuccino – to help you monitor the humidity.
If you’ve tried some of these tips and allergies are still effecting you, here are some ways you can treat these wintertime allergies.
How to Treat Allergies in Winter
The artificial indoor climate and cool outdoor temperatures can make treating allergies a challenge. Thankfully, there are a variety of over-the-counter and at-home remedies that can help you find relief whether you have winter allergies or suffer from hay fever all year long.
- Over-the-Counter Solutions: Antihistamines and intranasal corticosteroids can help relieve allergies related to dust mites, pet dander and other allergens. Antihistamines relieve sneezing, runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, and an itchy nose and throat. If you experience nasal allergy symptoms including nasal congestion, consider using an intranasal corticosteroid, such as RHINOCORT® Allergy Spray to relieve nasal congestion, sneezing and a runny and itchy nose.
- Non-Medicated Solutions: One way to help clear nasal passages is to use a saline nasal solution. Whether you use a nasal irrigation bottle, drops or spray, saline nasal solution serve as a gentle treatment.
Links to third-party sources in this content are provided are for educational purposes only. No sponsorship or endorsement is implied. This article includes information from the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
©Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2017