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Winter Allergies: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment And How To Prevent Them

If you think that allergies aren't common during the winter season, then think again. Even though the freezing temperatures bring relief to people with seasonal allergies, sneezing and blowing your nose, and some of the symptoms of allergies can persist throughout the cold months.

Here's what you need to know about winter allergies and how they are diagnosed and treated.

What Causes Winter Allergies

Winter allergies are allergies that occur during the colder months. People spend most of the time indoors due to the colder and harsher temperature outside and it increases their exposure to indoor allergens [1] .

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the most common indoor allergens include airborne dust particles, dust mites, indoor mould, pet dander (skin flakes that carry proteins) and cockroach droppings.

Dust mites - They thrive in a warm and damp environment and they are mostly found in bedding, carpets, and furniture [2] .

Pet dander - It is the dead skin flakes that get into household dust and stick to many surfaces like beds, carpets and upholstery [3] .

Indoor mould - The damp weather outside can promote mould growth in dark and moist areas like bathrooms, basements, and under sinks [4] .

Cockroach droppings - The cold weather outside drives the cockroaches indoors, where they start reproducing mainly in kitchen cabinets or under the sink [5] .

Symptoms Of Winter Allergies [6]

  • Sneezing
  • Skin rash
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy throat, ears and eyes
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Dry cough
  • Low fever
  • Feeling sick

Severe winter allergies can cause symptoms such as rapid breathing, anxiety, exhaustion, wheezing and chest tightness.

How To Distinguish Whether You Have A Winter Allergy Or Cold

Winter allergy occurs when the body releases histamine that creates an inflammatory response to allergens. It can happen at any time of the year and the symptoms might last up to several days.

On the other hand, cold occurs due to the transmission of virus which can spread through tiny droplets in the air when someone infected sneezes, coughs or talk. Cold can happen at any time of the year and the symptoms could last up to several days to two weeks [7] .

Diagnosis Of Winter Allergies

If the allergic symptoms last more than a week, consult a doctor. The doctor will ask you about your symptoms and may do a skin test. The test checks for immediate allergic reactions to as many as 40 different substances at once and identifies the allergies caused either by pollen, pet dander, dust mites or mould.

Skin injection test is also done through the use of a needle which has a small amount of allergen extract and is injected into the skin on your arm. The area is then examined for 15 minutes for signs of an allergic reaction.

Treatment Of Winter Allergies

Winter allergies can be treated at home. Here are some of the treatment procedures.

  • Over-the-counter allergy medications - Antihistamines like cetirizine or fexofenadine can bring relief from allergy symptoms effectively.
  • Nasal irrigation treatment - It works by sending clean, distilled water through your nasal passages to remove all the allergens [8] .
  • Immunotherapy - The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology suggests that if you have a pet allergy, you can consider immunotherapy. It works by building your body's immunity while exposing you to very small amounts of allergens [9] .
  • Nasal sprays - Nasal sprays like fluticasone and triamcinolone can bring relief from the winter allergy symptoms like a runny or itchy nose. It works by blocking the effects of histamine, a chemical released by the immune system during an allergy attack [10] .

Prevention Of Winter Allergies

  • Use a humidifier to reduce moisture inside the house. The humidity level should be around 30 to 50%.
  • Wash your clothes, bedding and upholstery covers daily in hot water to reduce dander and dust mites.
  • Vacuum your floor daily.
  • Keep your kitchen clean by removing leftover food after you or your pets finish eating.
  • Fix leaks in your bathroom, basement, or in the roof to stop moisture from coming inside.
  • To minimize pet dander, bathe your pets once a week.
  • Take out carpeting and use rugs instead.
  • Seal cracks and openings in your windows, doors, walls or kitchen cabinets where cockroaches can get in easily.
  • Keep your kitchen and bathroom dry to prevent the mould from forming.
View Article References
  1. [1] Philpott, L. (2016). Healthy living: Allergies: Watch out for winter allergies.PS Post Script, (Jul 2016), 21.
  2. [2] Fassio, F., & Guagnini, F. (2018). House dust mite-related respiratory allergies and probiotics: a narrative review.Clinical and molecular allergy : CMA,16, 15.
  3. [3] Ownby, D., & Johnson, C. C. (2016). Recent Understandings of Pet Allergies.F1000Research,5, F1000 Faculty Rev-108.
  4. [4] Jacob, B., Ritz, B., Gehring, U., Koch, A., Bischof, W., Wichmann, H. E., & Heinrich, J. (2002). Indoor exposure to moulds and allergic sensitization.Environmental health perspectives,110(7), 647-653.
  5. [5] Sohn, M. H., & Kim, K. E. (2012). The cockroach and allergic diseases.Allergy, asthma & immunology research,4(5), 264-269.
  6. [6] Cariñanos, P., Galán, C., Alcázar, P., & Dominguez, E. (2000). Meteorological phenomena affecting the presence of solid particles suspended in the air during winter.International journal of biometeorology,44(1), 6-10.
  7. [7] American Society For Microbiology. (1998, February 2). Common Cold Caused By Multiple Viruses, New Study Reveals.ScienceDaily
  8. [8] Kuna, P., Jurkiewicz, D., Czarnecka-Operacz, M. M., Pawliczak, R., Woroń, J., Moniuszko, M., & Emeryk, A. (2016). The role and choice criteria of antihistamines in allergy management - expert opinion.Postepy dermatologii i alergologii,33(6), 397-410.
  9. [9] Pfaar, O., Alvaro, M., Cardona, V., Hamelmann, E., Mösges, R., & Kleine-Tebbe, J. (2018). Clinical trials in allergen immunotherapy: current concepts and future needs.Allergy,73(9), 1775-1783.
  10. [10] Meltzer, E. O., Orgel, H. A., Bronsky, E. A., Furukawa, C. T., Grossman, J., LaForce, C. F., ... & Spector, S. L. (1990). A dose-ranging study of fluticasone propionate aqueous nasal spray for seasonal allergic rhinitis assessed by symptoms, rhinomanometry, and nasal cytology.Journal of allergy and clinical immunology,86(2), 221-230.

Story first published: Tuesday, October 29, 2019, 17:00 [IST]
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