While spring definitely has the worst rep for inducing allergies, it isn’t just flower power that brings about sniffles, sneezes, and itchy eyes. Regardless of the cold—or even freezing—temperatures outside, winter allergies can affect many people thanks to indoor culprits. Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist and immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network, explains that some folks are allergic to indoor allergens, such as dust mites, mold, and animal dander. Although this sort of debris and grime is present year-round, winter hibernation in cold areas of the country puts people in direct contact with the allergens. Dr. Parikh adds that forced air-heating systems blow these bad boys into the air circulation, causing even more symptoms. If you find yourself suffering, here’s what you need to know about these types of seasonal manifestations—and what to do.
1. Use dust-mite covers.
Pollen doesn’t merely go away in the cold, notes Dr. Parikh. When April creates those showers that make flowers grow in May, pollen begins to float through the air. It’s easy to assume you can rest easy once the first snow hits come winter—but that’s not exactly true. Pollen spores can hang out in the living room, kitchen, or bedroom for months. The same goes for dust mites, mold, and animal dander, which can cause discomfort when they’re all present at once. Dr. Parikh suggests protecting the areas that get the most face time—literally. She recommends dust-mite coverings for your mattress, pillows, and box spring, which will allow you to rest easier by not coughing through the night.
2. Vacuum—a lot.
But you don’t have a carpet, you say? That doesn’t matter because these allergens don’t need to attach to fabric to cause irritation. You’re already inside thanks to (yet another) Snowmageddon, so peel yourself away from your latest Netflix binge and give your apartment or home a once-over a few times a week. Whether you use a traditional vacuum for rugs or one designed for hardwood floors, it’s important to maintain this habit all 52 weeks of the year—but especially when you’re worried about winter allergies.
3. Invest in an air purifier.
Your beloved pup or cat—or both—keep you company on those long, cold winter nights, but they could also be the reason you can’t settle into a good sleep. Pet dander can wreak havoc when you can’t open the windows and allow new air to circulate. Dr. Parikh suggests investing in a high-quality air purifier that filters the oxygen and cleanses your home of furry-friend-related symptoms. There are many options at various price points and sizes, depending on your budget and space. You could also consider a humidifier and purifier duo that would not only make the air cleaner but also add some much-needed moisture to combat dryness and prevent unexpected bloody noses.
4. Pay attention to your breathing.
As with any other medical condition, people experience symptoms on a sliding scale. You might be using eye drops every hour, while your partner is struggling to tame their runny nose. Although symptoms can be cumbersome, Dr. Parikh says it’s most important to pay attention to your breathing when you have winter allergies. If you struggle to inhale and exhale normally, you could be suffering from uncontrolled asthma, a serious condition that should be treated immediately. Dr. Parikh stresses that more than 10 people die per day from not paying enough attention to their lungs in extreme cases. As always, if you’re concerned about your level of distress, book an appointment with a trusted medical professional ASAP.
5. Consider desensitization, aka allergy immunotherapy.
If you can’t seem to get away from your allergies—no matter the month—Dr. Parikh suggests looking into this treatment that could majorly decrease your symptoms. If you take medication daily to ward away winter (or any other seasonal) allergies, this could be a solid option. An allergist can try a multitude of options, from injections to under-the-tongue tablets.
Winter allergies seem a bit oxymoronic but rest assured, you’re not going crazy. Look out for symptoms similar to what you might experience in the spring: runny nose, itchy throat and eyes, and even irritated skin. Keep your home clean and talk to your doctor about the best long-term solution for you.