Do you suffer from perennial (year-round) allergies? If so, you may have noticed that your symptoms can get worse during the winter months. While spring and fall are known for their high pollen counts and worsening of seasonal allergies, winter can also bring about troublesome allergy symptoms. In this article, we’ll explore why your allergies act up in winter and what you can do to find relief.
What Causes Perennial Allergies?
Seasonal allergies are typically caused by pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds and can vary depending on the geographic area. Typically tree pollen is worse in the spring months, grass during the summer, and weeds during the fall. Perennial allergies, on the other hand, are triggered by an allergy to indoor allergens like dust mites, cockroaches, mold spores, or animal dander (although aeroallergens can cause year-round symptoms in tropical or subtropical climates). As the weather gets colder, we tend to spend more time indoors with our windows closed and the heat turned on. This creates the perfect environment for dust mites, pet dander, and mold to thrive.
Dust mites are microscopic creatures that live in household dust, mattresses, and other soft surfaces. They feed on dead skin cells and their droppings can trigger allergy symptoms in sensitive individuals. In winter, we tend to spend more time indoors, allowing dust mites to accumulate and cause flare-ups of allergies.
If you have a pet at home, you may notice that your allergies seem worse during the winter months. This is because pets tend to spend more time indoors in the winter, shedding their fur and dander. Pet dander is a common allergen that can cause itchy eyes, sneezing, and congestion.
Mold thrives in damp and dark environments, making our homes the perfect breeding ground during the winter months. As we close our windows and turn on the heat, we create a warm and moist environment that promotes mold growth. Mold spores can trigger allergies and asthma symptoms in individuals who are sensitive to them.
Combating Winter Allergies
While it may seem like there’s no escaping allergens during the winter, there are steps you can take to find relief. Here are some tips for managing your winter allergies:
- Keep your home clean. Regularly vacuuming and wiping surfaces can help reduce the amount of allergens in your home.
- Change your air filters. Make sure to change the air filters in your home regularly, especially if you have pets. Consider HEPA filters specifically.
- Invest in a dehumidifier. If mold or dust mites are triggers for your allergies, using a dehumidifier can help reduce moisture levels in your home and prevent mold growth and dust mite survivability.
- Keep pets groomed and washed. Regular grooming and washing an help reduce the amount of dander that your pet sheds, which can trigger allergies.
When to Seek Professional Help
If your winter allergies are particularly severe or are interfering with your daily life, it may be time to seek professional help. By understanding the causes of winter allergies and taking steps to reduce exposure to allergens, we can find relief and enjoy the season without constant sneezing and congestion. At Bernstein Allergy Group, our board-certified specialists in allergy, asthma, and immunology can help identify your triggers and develop a personalized treatment plan to help you find relief. We offer comprehensive allergy testing and treatments for patients of all ages.