If you’re like most of us, a runny nose, sneezing and coughing during the winter months probably makes you think you have a cold. However, if you find yourself frequently dealing with sniffling and sneezing, you may be dealing with something else entirely — winter allergies.
The branches are bare, snow is on the ground and there is hardly any pollen circulating through the air. How can you have winter allergies when common summer allergens are nowhere to be found?
Since you’re spending more time indoors, you’re more exposed to indoor allergens like mold spores, pet dander, dust mites, smoke and other irritating fumes. Unfortunately, if you deal with spring and summer allergies, you’ll likely find yourself prone to winter ones, too.
Tips for Fighting Winter Allergies
Make sure you’re dealing with allergies: Fatigue, body aches and sometimes fevers are usually associated with colds, not allergies. In addition, most colds last for about a week. If you find your symptoms persist past a week and feature itchy or watery eyes, you may be dealing with allergies.
Use an exhaust fan: To help remove excess moisture and odors from the air when cooking or showering.
Wash your hands frequently: Not only can handwashing help keep you healthy during the winter months, it also reduces the amount of allergens on your hands. If you’re sensitive to pet dander, wash your hands after playing with or petting your pets. Also, try to keep pets off of your bed.
Deal with the allergen, if you can: If you have an issue with mold, keep the humidity in your home below 50 percent with a dehumidifier. Running an exhaust fan when showering also helps reduce mold, as can getting new shower curtains, wallpaper, curtains or carpet if they have mold. Using a HEPA filter when vacuuming or running one in your home helps reduce the amount of dust in the air, and high efficiency furnace filters can also help reduce the amount of allergens in the air. Also, make sure to wash your bedding with hot water at least once per week.
Survey your home: Each month survey the inside and outside of your home. Look for obvious triggers for winter allergies like mold and dust, and eliminate them. Also, keep an eye out for areas that could become at risk for mold formation — like firewood near the house or a musty area in the basement.
Visit your doctor: Confused about whether you’re dealing with a cold or winter allergies? Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and possible treatment options.