Sneezing, congestion and a runny nose – Onset of winters is not a breath of fresh air for many. With a slight nip in the air, one would feel that it’s time to enjoy a much-needed break from seasonal allergy symptoms, but as the weather gets colder, winter allergies rear their ugly head.
“Unlike autumn or spring allergies, which are often responses to outdoor allergens like pollen, winter allergies are triggered by substances inside our home. While these indoor allergens are present year-round, allergies can flare up in the winter because you’re cooped up in the house with the windows closed,” says Dr Trupti Gilada, Infectious Disease Specialist, Masina Hospital, Mumbai.
Winter usually means staying indoors resulting in overexposure to indoor allergens. “During winters staying indoors leads to higher exposure to dust on carpets, furniture,toys etc, plant pollen, insects like mites and cockroaches,pets could be carrying dust and pollen on their furs. People susceptible to allergies could be worst hit and conditions like asthma,seasonal rhinitis,urticaria etc may worsen,” Dr Charu Goel Sachdeva, HOD And Consultant- Internal Medicine HCMCT Manipal Hospitals Dwarka New Delhi
Pollen from plants and air pollution do lend to the problem too. Children and elderly have been mostly confined indoors due to the covid pandemic, so stepping out specially with children going to school would expose them to many outdoor allergens as well.
“Climate,pollen,indoor dust and mites account for a large number of allergic conditions. Dryness of the skin during Winters could predispose to urticaria. People with conditions like asthma,sinusitis and other respiratory conditions could feel their symptoms aggravate,” adds Dr Sachdeva.
The symptoms are common to other allergies and can often be confused with an infection. Winter allergies tend to trouble for longer periods and may have a waxing-waning course unlike most respiratory infections. “Common symptoms include runny/blocked nose, itchy throat, watery eyes, coughing, sore throat, slight fever, etc. Additional symptoms such as chest tightness, shortness of breath, exhaustion, and wheezing may arise in severe allergies,” opines Dr Farah Ingale, Director-Internal Medicine, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi.
How to treat them?
“Nasal decongestants/rinses – to clear out mucus and relieve the swelling is recommended. You can opt for over-the-counter medication – antihistamines, prescribed nasal steroids,” says Dr Ingale. The important thing is to know how to prevent or minimize exposure to the allergens.
“When skin becomes dry in winters, people must use pH balanced moisturizing soaps and body washes and just after bath, they should gently pat the skin with soft towel and not rub it and then moisturizing body lotion need to be applied to slightly wet skin to restore hydration,” says Dr. Navjot Arora, MBBS, MD (SKIN), Consultant Dermaheal Skin and Hair Clinic.
“Immunotherapy or allergy shots where the person is gradually exposed to higher doses of allergens to create immunity within the body,” says Dr Ingale.
Keeping humidity below 50 percent helps reduce dust mites. Dehumidifiers often are very helpful for such individuals.
Vacuum carpets and rugs frequently. Remove wall-to-wall carpets.
“Clean regularly. Wet mopping is better than dusting that tends to cause allergens to get suspended in air. If you are the one who is suffering during the winter months, have someone else in your house do the dusting and vacuuming. If you can, leave the house while the cleaning is being done,” says Dr Gilada.
Bathe your pets weekly, if possible, to wash away dander and other allergens from their fur. Wash your hair off after playing with pets and before going to bed