It hardly seems fair, but if you’re prone to spring or summer allergies, chances are you’re at risk for allergies when the weather turns cooler, too. The reason is simple: Many of those warm-weather irritants like pet dander, dust and mold and mildew are around all year. And in Florida where the winters are mild, outdoor allergens like pollen also can cause year-round allergy woes.
Top Triggers of Winter Allergies
- Pets: Most people are not allergic to animal fur, but rather to a protein found in the pet dander, saliva and urine.
- Mold and mildew: Mold thrives in damp, humid areas in your home, such as the bathroom. Outside, decaying leaves and other yard waste gives mold and mildew an ideal breeding ground. When mold spores get into the air, they can trigger allergy symptoms.
- Dust and dust mites: House dust settles on fabrics, rugs and carpet and on and under furniture. Pesky microscopic dust mites can flourish in mattresses and bedding. When dust and dust mite remains and droppings become airborne, they can cause allergy symptoms.
- Holiday décor: Your festive holiday decorations can exacerbate your winter allergies. Live trees, wreathes and garlands can harbor chemicals and mold. Decorations brought out of storage may be dusty and full of allergy-triggering dust mites.
To avoid having these seasonal traditions irritate your allergy symptoms, experts recommend spraying live trees and greenery with water before they are brought inside to remove potential allergens. You should also remove the dust from holiday decorations before hanging them.
For some people with allergies, the best option is to switch to an artificial Christmas tree. During the holidays, poinsettias can also be problematic for people who have latex allergies since this plant is part of the rubber tree family, said Adriana Bonansea-Frances, M.D., PhD.
Common allergy symptoms (not to be confused with common colds)
The symptoms of colds and allergies are similar, so how can you tell if your runny nose and sneezing are signs of a cold or flu or allergies? ‘If your symptoms last longer than a week, it’s probably not a cold’, says Dr. Bonansea Frances. Allergies can linger for weeks or even months. In addition, colds and flu sometimes come with fever and aches and pains — symptoms not usually associated with allergies.
The most common allergy symptoms include:
• Coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath
• Stuffy, runny or itchy nose
• Congestion or sinus pressure
• Itchy or watery eyes
• Dark circles under the eyes
• Itchy, prickly skin or hives
Tips to Reduce Allergens
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology advises taking the following steps to allergy-proof your home:
• Remove carpets, if possible.
• Mop, sweep, vacuum and dust often. Wash showers and sinks to remove mold and mildew.
• Discard shower curtains, wallpaper or carpeting that have mold.
• Turn on exhaust fans when taking a shower or cooking to reduce humidity and odors.
• Use dehumidifiers to keep humidity levels at 30-40 % to help control dust mites and mold.
• Install high-efficiency furnace filters, which eliminate 30 times more allergens.
• Use a HEPA air filter to clean dust from the air and a HEPA vacuum on carpets to reduce pet allergens and remove dust mites.
• Wash bedding and pajamas in hot water twice a month. Use allergy-proof covers on mattresses, pillows and comforters.
• Bathe pets and wash pet bedding each week. Keep pets out of the bedrooms.
• Call a professional when combating mouse and insect infestations.
When allergies flare-up, take care of yourself to keep your allergy symptoms in check:
• Wash your hands often, especially after playing with pets.
• Take a shower or change clothes to remove allergens that may be clinging to you.
• Avoid touching your face.
Dr. Bonansea Frances advises patients to consult their doctor about medication options and dosages.
Treatments for winter allergies include:
• Antihistamines to reduce sneezing, sniffling and itching.
• Decongestants to clear mucus and relieve congestion and swelling.
• Saline solution to irrigate nasal passages and clear congestion.
• Allergy shots to expose the body to gradually increasing doses of the allergen.
Living in South Florida exposes you to allergy triggers all year round. If you suspect having any allergy symptoms, you need to consult an allergist. We’ll be happy to help you.