Most Common Winter Allergens
Contrary to popular belief, many of the most common seasonal allergies are actually present throughout the entire year. In fact, because of the colder-weather climate, allergy triggers can become heightened in certain indoor environments.
Common Winter Allergens
From November to late March, people living in regions that experience extreme winter weather have to close up their homes and turn on their heating systems to combat the cold. Although necessary, this lack of ventilation makes the effects of common allergens much worse. Those who experience indoor allergies, such as reactions to mold and dust mites, will have a more difficult time combating them during the winter.
- Mold - It's important to have a humidifier operating during the dry, winter months, however mold also thrives in areas that are damp and humid. Keeping your humidifier on the proper settings will ensure your rooms stay at the right humidity level. Areas that are perpetually damp, such as your basement or bathroom, are hot spots for mold growth.
- Dust Mites - During the months your heating system sits unused, it naturally gather lots of dust. As soon as you turn your system on following the first cold days of winter, these dust mites circulate into the air, and will do so throughout the winter as warm, heated air continues to distribute around your home.
- Pet Dander - Being cooped up with poochy during the winter months can aggravate allergy symptoms from pet dander. The particles found in pet dander, not pair hair itself, can cause allergic reactions when this dander is transmitted through the air.
- Pollen - Although pollen is typically considered a spring allergy, mild winters can cause plants to pollinate early, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Additionally, these spring allergies actually begin as early as February so it's important to know pollen counts during the last few months of winter.
When it's cold outside and you begin to sneeze and sniffle, it may not be so easy to tell if you're experiencing a passing winter cold or seasonal allergies. Symptoms of winter allergens include runny nose, scratchy throat, sneezing and itchy, watery eyes. While these symptoms may seem similar to those of a cold, according to the National Institutes of Health, those who have developed the seasonal flu will also experience body aches and sometimes fever. Additionally, the cold and flu are temporary and should typically be gone within 5 to 10 days. The telltale sign of allergies is that they last much longer than one or two weeks.
To prevent and combat dust mites, frequent dusting and vacuuming is essential. Ensuring that all of your clothing, towels and bedding are completely dry before folding and sorting them after a wash is also critical. Damp clothes can create mildew, which is not good for those who experience reactions to allergens. Keeping your household pets off of your furniture and brushing and bathing them frequently will help to reduce risk of pet dander. Keeping damp areas as clean and dry as possible is key for avoiding mold. Consider using a dehumidifier in your basement or bathroom, and also be sure to tidy up your kitchen after cooking.
As cold as it may be in the winter, opening a window and letting in some fresh air every now and then is one way to ease the burden of winter allergens. Circulating fresh air will eliminate some of the dust particles. If you are concerned about dust and airborne allergens floating through the air, using a HEPA air purifier can also make the environment more comfortable for you and your family.