You’ve been looking forward to winter all year. The sneezing and coughing and runny nose caused by your hay fever were simply unbearable over the summer, and you’re hoping the colder (less pollen-filled) air will provide some relief.
Unfortunately, winter allergies are quite common.
That doesn’t mean summer allergies will always give way to winter allergies. But there are some winter allergens that have a way of irritating your immune system and causing reactions. Coupled with seasonal illnesses, there are good reasons to take your winter allergies seriously.
What Are Winter Allergies?
You can think of an allergic reaction as a miscalibration of your immune system. In the spring and summer, your body thinks that pollen is a danger to your health, so it fires up the immune response, and you sneeze as a result.
In winter, the same essential functions occur, but the allergens causing your reaction will differ. The most common winter allergies include:
Mold: Your body isn’t a huge fan of mold spores. And those spores get the run of the area come cold weather. That’s because the winter frost doesn’t necessarily kill mold spores. Additionally, mold spores tend to be smaller than pollen, so they can really get deep into your respiratory system when they cause a reaction (this could lead to more coughing than sneezing).
Pet Dander: In the winter, you’re inside all day. And so are your pets. With no open windows and lots of recirculated air, you’ll be breathing in a lot more pet dander than usual. The sheer concentration of this dander could cause your allergies to flare up.
Dust: By the same token, the dust in your home could become a more significant allergen. Again, because all of your windows likely will remain shut for months on end, all that dust has nowhere to go. It’s not so much the quality of the dust that causes your sneezing and watery eyes–it’s the quantity.
In many ways, these allergens are somewhat unavoidable. You’re not going to board your dog all winter because your allergies are acting up. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have many options in terms of preventing allergy flare-ups.
How Can I Get Rid of Winter Allergies?
If you’re suffering from winter allergies, you’ll want to know how to limit those symptoms as much as possible. In the summer, that seems kind of easy: stay indoors. But in the winter, staying inside is exactly the kind of thing that’s making your allergies worse.
So here are a few things you can do:
Make sure your pets have their own bed: Ideally, you’d want to keep your pets out of your room at night. But the very least you should do is ensure your pets have their own bed to sleep in. You just need to give your allergies some space to recover–and some room to breathe.
Use an air filter: Ensure the air filtration system in your HVAC venting is in working order. It’s not a bad idea to replace those filters before winter transitions into high gear. You can also invest in other stand-alone air filtration devices.
Get Your Flu Shot
One of the most important prevention steps you can take is to protect yourself from compound symptoms. If your allergies are flaring up and you contract the flu or pneumonia on top of that, you could be looking at some pretty significant pulmonary issues.
Your best option, then, is to make sure you get your flu shot every year. It’s true. The flu shot does not protect you against 100% of the influenza strains out there. But some protection is better than no protection. And if you have winter allergies, this added protection will be essential. You don’t want allergies and flu at the same time.
Personalize Your Allergy Response
Everyone’s allergies are different. You might notice more allergens in your area during December and January. For other people, the brutal dry air of February might be the real source of the problem. But whatever your allergy situation is, there are certain steps you can take to relieve your symptoms.
Just because you have winter allergies doesn’t mean you have to suffer through the cold months sniffling and sneezing. If you want more specific relief from allergy symptoms, talk to your doctor about treatment options.