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    Do You Have Winter Allergies?

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    If you’re allergic to pollen, you may get a break when the weather gets cold. But if you have indoor allergies such as mold and dust mites, you may notice your allergy symptoms more during winter, when you spend more time inside.

    Causes

    When it gets cold and your furnace kicks on, it sends dust, mold spores, and insect parts into the air. They can get into your nose and launch a reaction.

    Some common indoor allergy triggers are:

    • Dust mites . These microscopic bugs flourish in mattresses and bedding. When their droppings and remains become airborne, they can cause allergy symptoms.
    • Mold. This fungus thrives in damp, humid areas such as basements and bathrooms. When mold spores get into the air, they can trigger allergy symptoms.
    • Animals. Most people are not allergic to animal fur, but rather to a protein found in the pet dander, saliva, and urine.

    Symptoms

    Allergy symptoms caused by dust, pollen, or mold include:

    How can you tell whether your symptoms are from a cold, the flu, or allergies? A cold usually doesn't last for more than 10 days. Allergies can linger for weeks or even months. Also, colds and flu sometimes have a fever and aches and pains, which don’t usually happen with allergies.

    Diagnosis

    If your symptoms last more than a week, see your doctor. He may refer you to an allergist, who will ask you about your health history and symptoms.

    The allergist may do a skin test where he scratches your skin with a tiny bit of an allergen or injects it just under your skin. If the area turns red and itchy, you're allergic. There's also a blood test to diagnose some allergies.

    Treatment

    Treatments for winter allergies include:

    • Antihistamines , which reduce sneezing, sniffling, and itching
    • Decongestants , which clear mucus to relieve congestion and swelling
    • Immunotherapy (allergy shots or under-the-tongue tablets), which expose your body to gradually bigger doses of the allergen. This approach can curb your symptoms for a longer period of time than allergy drugs.
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