Winter AllergyLand

Most people associate the Allergy Season to be Spring/Summer time and the Flu season to be Autumn/Winter time, however Winter allergies are very common, and they pose slightly different problems than they do during other seasons.

Although cold temperatures bring an end to seasonal pollen allergies, outdoor allergies aren’t such a cause for concern. However indoor winter allergies soon take over as we spend more time indoors during the cold winter months.

From October on you might notice an increase in allergy symptoms, such as itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, wheezing and an itchy roof of mouth. Many people suffer from winter allergies due to the time spent indoors.

Common indoor allergens include:

Allergen

Where it’s found

Why it’s an allergen

Increases Allergen

Airborne dust particles/ Human & Pet Dander (dead skin flakes)

Indoor surfaces: Bedding, Carpets, upholstery

Dander can get into household dust and stick to indoors surfaces, increasing your chances of exposure.

Pets indoor during the winter, especially in bedrooms or living rooms

Dust mites

Bedding, Carpets, upholstery

Microscopic bugs live in warm, damp environments, and their excrement can get into household dust.

Indoor heating with windows closed all the time, not hoovering, dusting regularly especially bedroom

Mould

Damp, dark, moist areas: Bathrooms, Basements, corners of a room

When Mould spores are inhaled by those with allergies it can trigger sneezing, congestion and itchiness. Damp weather can promote mould growth.

Humidifiers, leaky pipes or faucets

Cockroach Droppings

Dark, moist areas: Kitchen Cupboards, under sinks, or behind appliances

Proteins found in saliva and excrement of cockroaches can easily spread like dust through homes. Can affect both adults and children, though children are known to be more susceptible.

Damp weather can drive roaches indoors.

Leaving out food or crumbs

Symptoms:

  • Watery eyes 
  • Sneezing 
  • Runny/Stuffy nose
  • Itchy eyes/nose/throat/ear
  • Coughing
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Dry Cough, sometimes producing phlegm
  • Skin rash
  • Feeling sick
  • Low-grade fever
 
 

Some allergies may also lead to more disruptive asthmatic symptoms:

  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing or whistling when you breathe
  • Breathing rapidly 
  • Feeling exhausted 
  • Feeling anxious 
 

It is advised to see a doctor if you have symptoms you think are caused by an allergy and over-the-counter allergy medications don’t provide relief.

 

Allergies vs. cold

During the winter, it is difficult to distinguish an allergy from a cold, however both have very different sources. A cold is a result from a virus that’s spread by an infected individual. An allergy is the body’s immune system response to an irritant or trigger and continues as long as the allergen is present. Both share symptoms, such as sneezing, runny/stuffy nose and congestion while itchy watery eyes and itchy throat and ear are typically the sign of an allergy,

A cold will end once your body fights off the infection. Allergies can happen whenever your are exposed to allergens.

 

Allergies

Cold/Flu

Length

Several days/months or longer

Several days-2 weeks

When

Anytime during the year

More common in Winter and Spring

Symptoms

Appear with exposure to allergen

·       Cough, runny nose and stuffiness

·       Itchy throat

·       Itchy and watery eyes

Appear a few days after infection

·       Cough, runny nose and stuffiness

·       Sore throat

·       No itchy eyes

 

Diagnosis

If symptoms last more than a week, it is advised to see your doctor who may refer you to an allergist. The allergist may do a skin test in which they scratch your skin with a small piece of an allergen or injects it just under your skin. If the area turns red with a lump, you may be allergic, however further blood tests will accurately diagnose you.

 

Treatments

Allergies can be treated instantly at home and by long-term clinical treatments. 

Over the Counter allergy medication:

Speak with your pharmacist or doctor to find out which over-the-counter medication is right for you.

  • Antihistamines- pills, nasal sprays, eye drops
  • target histamine, which your body makes during an allergic reaction. 
  • Build up in blood to protect against allergens and block the release of histamines, advisable to take before you have symptoms
  • Decongestants- pills, liquids, nasal sprays
  • Cut down the fluid in the lining of the nose which relieves swollen nasal passages and congestion

Some medication may combine antihistamines and decongestants and their name usually ends with -D can relieve headaches. 

 

Other Medication;

Again speak with your doctor to find out which option is best for you.

  • Immunotherapy (allergy shots or under-the-tongue tablets) expose your body to very small amounts of your allergens regularly to build up your body’s immunity to them. This leads to much less severe symptoms over the course of several years.
  • Neti pot works by pouring clean, distilled water through your nasal passages to clear out mucus and allergens.
  • Rhinolight treatment (UV phototherapy for nose and sinus allergy) is a high-intensity, ultraviolet light which is inserted into the nasal passage to reduce, and potentially eliminate, the allergic response to allergens.




Prevention- How to reduce exposure to allergens

 

Bedding

  • Use special protective casing over your pillows and mattress to reduce dust mites.
  • Wash bedding, pillow cases, clothing regularly in hot water to reduce dander and dust mites
  • Remove fluffy cushions, teddies and upholstery from bed
 
 
 

House furniture

  • Replace carpet floor with wood, tile or linoleum and avoid wall-to-wall carpeting
  • Seal cracks or openings in doors, windows or walls where cockroaches can enter, or outdoor air can blow in
  • Fix any leaks in bathroom, roof, pipes to stop moisture build up for dust mites
  • Clean areas e.g sinks and showers with mould growth with water and 5% bleach solution
  • Regularly hoover, dust and clean your house preferably with a HEPA filter vacuum
  • Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture indoors-ideal humidity level is 30-50%.
  • Remove old shower curtain, wallpaper, carpeting with mould
 
 

Pets

  • Bathe pets once a week to minimize dander
  • Clean up pet food after feeding
  • Keep out of bedroom of allergic individual
 
 
 
 

Allergic Individual

  • Keep clothes, jumpers, scarves etc clean, hung up away from floor dust
  • Wear silk pjamasas
  • Use a salt inhaler
  • Bring your own pillow/pillow case to sleepover
 
 

Christmas Holidays

  • Consider an artificial Christmas tree as real ones can contain mould or chemicals
  • Clean ornaments before you hang them
  • Use glass or plastic ornaments instead of fabric
 
 

Public areas, such as workplaces or shops, can have the same allergy-inducing conditions as your home such as, dry air, dust, and dust mites. Even when shopping and trying on clothes make sure to get fresh air between every few shops as I often get symptoms if trying on different fabrics.

If you are asthmatic, allergies can aggravate your chest and make your asthma worse, which may cause you to increase your inhalers. If this happens, it is important to speak with your GP or asthma nurse as they may advise an allergy tablet or a stronger inhaler rather than taking your current inhaler multiple times throughout the day.


If you have any concerns regarding your allergies or think you have symptoms that are caused by allergies, it is advised that you see your doctor to find the best treatment for you. 

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