Winter Allergies: What's Your Risk?
Think allergies go away in the winter? Think again. Here are the top triggers -- and treatments.
The temperature drops, the wind picks up, and like clockwork you're
sniffling and sneezing again. Great, you've got another cold -- or is it winter
Telling Colds and Winter Allergies Apart
At first blush it may be hard to tell whether your stuffed nose and watery
eyes are caused by allergies to irritants like pet dander and dust mites, or by
a winter cold. Fortunately, a little time is all it takes to answer the
"Colds come, they're there for three, five, seven days, and then they go
away," says allergist Steven H. Cohen, MD, associate clinical professor at
the Medical College of Wisconsin, "but allergy symptoms persist for much
longer and may be intermittent."
To tell what's laying you low, it helps to know the differences between cold
symptoms and winter allergies, including:
* Nasal secretions are watery, clear
* Nasal secretions are discolored
* Itchy eyes and throat
* Chills and body aches
* Symptoms persist for weeks
* Symptoms are usually gone in a week
If it sounds like your snuffling and sneezing could be winter allergies,
read on -- there's relief in sight.
What's Your Winter Allergies Risk?
It hardly seems fair, but if you're prone to summer allergies, chances are
you're at risk for allergies when the weather turns cold, too.
The reason is simple: Many of those warm weather irritants are around all
year, like pet dander, mold, and mildew. And once you settle indoors for the
chilly holiday season -- the windows closed, the heater on -- your exposure to
these allergens spikes, says Asriani Chiu, MD, associate professor of
pediatrics and medicine (allergy/immunology), at the College of Wisconsin.
The best way to handle winter allergies is to understand what's triggering
them and why. To help you do that, WebMD went to the experts and got their tips
on what causes the allergies of winter, and how you can take control.
Top Triggers of Winter Allergies
Most winter allergies are caused by the same inhaled allergens of summer,
Chiu tells WebMD. Unfortunately, winter can actually intensify those triggers,
Pet dander: Because cold weather means pets are indoors more often,
your exposure to dander escalates in the winter months, leading to a
corresponding surge in symptoms.
Mold and mildew: Decaying leaves and other yard waste gives mold and
mildew an ideal breeding ground. Shoes and clothes then provide these damp,
clingy irritants with an easy way inside.
Temperate climates: Milder climates -- where there are few or no
frosts or hard freezes -- means the year-round presence of allergens like
pollen, year-round symptoms for people living there, or an increase in allergy
symptoms for those traveling to warmer climates in the winter.
Damp wood: Cut wood stored outside easily becomes a moist haven for
mold spores. Bring the wood inside for even brief storage and you've invited in
a classic allergy trigger.