If you suffer from sneezing, head congestion, postnasal drip, runny nose, and/or coughing during flu season, you could have the flu; however, those same symptoms may be due to winter allergies. Chances are, if the cold temperatures caused you to turn on your heater, you could be suffering from winter allergies.
What causes winter allergies?
Oftentimes, when the weather gets cold, we have to turn on the heat in our homes to stay warm. The dust, mold and insect parts that have settled into all the nooks and crannies in our homes tend to get stirred up when we turn on the heat. Winter allergies are a little different from allergies to pollen. In the wintertime, our windows are closed and the dust, mold and dust mites are confined within our living space.
Dust, dust mites, mold, animal dander and other substances in our environment can cause the body to produce an allergic response. The substance becomes an allergen which causes the body to release histamine. Histamine is a chemical that causes the body to react to certain substances. Common symptoms of a histamine response are sneezing, coughing, runny nose, watery eyes. More serious histamine responses can cause swelling in the throat which is followed by anaphylactic shock and death.
Indoor allergies can be more difficult to deal with because you are around them all the time in your home environment. For instance, dust mites are microscopic spider-like organisms which live in our beds and bedding. Dust mites live, breed and leave their droppings and die on our beds, bedding and bodies. The air in our living environment is full of dust mites and their skeletons and waste products.
Mold is a type of fungus; mold likes to live in moist, human areas in our homes. Mold is most commonly found in bathrooms and basements. Mold and mildew can grow in your laundry basket, hamper, under your cabinets (if it is moist there) and almost anywhere the conditions are right.
We, who have pets, love them; however, many people are allergic to a specific protein that is found in their saliva, urine and skin. Animal dander (skin flakes) is constantly being shed from our animals as they scratch, groom themselves and move about the home. The proteins in the animal dander are airborne; we breathe these particles into your respiratory tract. If allergic to these proteins, our immune system will release histamine chemicals into the body as a defense mechanism.
Many products used on the person or in the home can also cause winter allergies or indoor allergies. For instance, using perfumed sprays in the home can induce an allergic response. You can eliminate many of the symptoms of winter allergies by taking steps to rid your home of the allergens. Dust mite control is one major factor to consider when cleaning your home. Placing your pillows in your drier for 15 to 20 minutes will kill the dust mites. Vacuum your mattress to remove all the dead skin and dust mites, and then cover your mattress with a mattress cover. If you make your environment uninviting for dust mites, you will be able to get rid of them.
The bathroom is notorious for growing mold and mildew. You might consider leaving the bathroom door cracked when the bath or shower is running. Leave the door open when the bathroom isn’t in use. Avoid putting wet towels and washcloths into the hamper. It will also help to remove the existing mold in the home. There are products on the market specially designed to get rid of mold and mildew on walls and other surfaces. You should be able to alleviate the symptoms of winter allergies by controlling the environment in which you live.