How to Cope with Winter Allergies

Winter is the season of sniffs and sniffles, but your drippy nose may not be caused by the latest cold virus. When temperatures drop below freezing and you start spending most of your time indoors, you increase your exposure to indoor allergens like dust mites and mold. Much like a pollen allergy, your body may identify these foreign invaders as harmful substances and trigger an immune response. This means you develop a host of cold-like symptoms, including runny nose, watery eyes, itchy throat, and a persistent cough.

Because their symptoms are so similar, it can be difficult to differentiate between winter allergies and the common cold. However, there are some clues that can help you reach a diagnosis. A cold or flu typically will not last beyond 10 days, and symptoms will generally start to improve after two to three days. Winter allergy symptoms can last for weeks or even months without improvement. The cold and flu may also cause fever and body aches, both of which are uncommon with allergies.

If your symptoms last more than a week, schedule an appointment with your doctor or allergist to discuss the possibility of winter allergies. Your doctor may perform a skin test or blood test to confirm a diagnosis. If you do have winter allergies, there are a variety of treatment options available to relieve your symptoms. They include:

Antihistamines to block histamine activity in the body and prevent itching, sniffling and sneezing
Decongestants to clear mucus build-up and relieve inflammation
Allergy shots which build your immunity to particular allergens and have long-lasting effects

In addition to treatments prescribed by your doctor, you can help reduce allergy symptoms by making your home an allergen-free zone.

  • Wash all curtains and bedding in hot water. For delicate items that cannot withstand heat, wash on a low setting and rinse laundry twice for at least three minutes each.
  • Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to vacuum all carpets, rugs and upholstery
  • Use allergen-proof covers on all mattresses, box springs and pillows
  • Wipe down all counters, cabinets, furniture, baseboards, and wood surfaces with a damp cloth
  • Use mold-killing products on shower liners, bathroom tiles and shower surfaces
  • Install HEPA air filters in your home and remember to change them regularly

Seasonal allergies aren’t preventable, but they can be managed with proper treatment and preparation. Take steps to make your home an allergy-free zone this winter, and schedule an appointment with your doctor if you develop bothersome symptoms. Finding the right treatment plan is the key to complete relief (Source: WebMD).