Sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy or watery eyes—these are all symptoms that many people experience each winter. When you find yourself miserable with your winter “cold,” think again. You may not have a cold, after all—you could actually be suffering from winter allergies.
Because allergies are so prevalent in the fall, many people don’t believe their symptoms during the winter are due to allergies. They, instead, put the blame on the common cold. In fact, many will dismiss their symptoms for years as resulting from a cold. The common cold or flu, though, has other accompanying symptoms, such as fever and achiness.
If your symptoms persist for longer than 10 days, you most likely are dealing with allergies. “Allergy symptoms can last for weeks or even months. People can even be symptomatic year-round,” says Dr. Mark Posner, M.D., a physician partner at Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM.
If you have mostly outdoor allergies, such as allergies to pollen, you will likely feel better during the winter. However, if you suffer more from indoor allergies like dust mites, mold or animals, the winter will present a challenge for you.
Common symptoms of winter allergies include:
• Nasal congestion
• Sinus headaches
• Shortness of breath
• Itchy or watery eyes
• Itchy or runny nose
• Dark circles under the eyes
Common treatment includes over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestants. While decongestants help open your nasal passageways when you feel congested, antihistamines will relieve a variety of symptoms and, taken regularly, will build up in your system to prevent flare-ups. Allergy shots and immunotherapy are other options that can help control your allergy symptoms long-term.
Dr. Posner has several tips to help you be allergy-free during the winter months:
See an Allergist for a Skin Test
Visit an allergist to learn if you have allergies and, if so, exactly what causes them. Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM offers state-of-the-art skin testing to determine your precise allergy triggers.
Take Care of Your Immune System
Getting plenty of rest, eating well, and reducing stress will strengthen your immune system. “Exercise is a good stress reliever, and it helps the immune system,” Dr. Posner says.
Keep Your Home Allergy-Free
Since you spend more time indoors during the winter, common allergy triggers like dust mites, mold and animal dander will present more of a problem. “When you’re indoors, you’re also more exposed to indoor allergens caused by new carpets, furniture or gas stoves,” Dr. Posner says.
Discard or clean any household items that have mold, wash your bedding in hot water each week, and use a HEPA air filter to clear the indoor air of dust.
Be Mindful of Animals
Try to avoid furry pets, such as cats and dogs. If you already have one, don’t let your pet sleep in your bedroom, and give it a bath weekly. “With animal allergies, the amount of dander actually increases during the winter,” Dr. Posner says.
Remember: What you always thought was just a “common cold” in the winter may be your allergies. So, go see an allergist, determine what triggers your symptoms, and take care of yourself this season.
If you think you suffer from allergies, call (800) 86-COUGH, option 2, to schedule a consultation.
Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM is a group practice with eight locations in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs. Fellowship-trained, board-certified allergists/immunologists provide comprehensive allergy and asthma diagnostics and state-of-the-art medical care in a personal and caring environment, emphasizing the control of asthma and allergic disease, while avoiding side effects from medications.
Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM
Locations: Blue Bell, King of Prussia, Collegeville, Pottstown, Philadelphia, Jenkintown, Lansdale and Doylestown
Office hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Evening appointments are available weekly on alternating days.
Toll-free: (800) 86-COUGH
Local: (610) 825-5800
Learn more about Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM here.