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Staying Healthy This Winter: Don’t Be Surprised If Your Winter “Cold” is Actually Allergies

Sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy or watery eyes – these are all common symptoms many people experience each winter. When you find yourself miserable with your winter “cold,” think again: you may not have a cold after all. You could actually be suffering from winter allergies.

Because allergies are so prevalent in the fall, many people don’t believe their symptoms during the winter are due to allergies, and they, instead, put the blame on the common cold. In fact, many will dismiss their symptoms for years as resulting from that of a cold. The common cold or flu, though, has other accompanying symptoms, such as fever and achiness.

If your symptoms persist for longer than 10 days, you most likely are dealing with allergies. “Allergy symptoms can last for weeks or even months. People can even be symptomatic all-year-round,” according to Dr. Mark Posner, M.D., Physician Partner at Allergy & Asthma Specialists.

If you have mostly outdoor allergies, such as allergies to pollen, you will most likely feel better during the winter. However, if you are suffering more from indoor allergies – dust mites, mold, or animals – the winter will present a challenge for you.

Common symptoms of winter allergies include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sinus headaches
  • Bronchitis
  • Shortness of breath
  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Itchy or runny nose
  • Dark circles under the eyes

Common treatment includes over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestants. While decongestants help open your nasal passageways when you feel congested, antihistamines will relieve a variety of symptoms and, taken regularly, build up in your system to prevent flare-ups. Allergy shots or immunotherapy is another option that can help control your allergy symptoms long-term.

Dr. Posner has several tips to keep in mind to be allergy-free during the winter months:

See an Allergist for a Skin Test

See an allergist to determine if you have allergies, and, if so, exactly what causes them. Allergy & Asthma Specialists offers state-of-the-art skin testing to determine your exact allergy triggers.

Take Care of Your Immune System

Getting plenty of rest, eating well, and reducing stress will strengthen your immune system, resulting in a healthier you. “Exercise is a good stress reliever, and it helps the immune system,” Dr. Posner advises.

Keep Your Home Allergy-Free

Since you spend more time indoors during the winter, common allergy triggers, such as dust mites, mold, and animal dander, will present more of a problem. “When you’re indoors, you’re also more exposed to indoor allergens caused by new carpets, furniture, or gas stoves,” Dr. Posner says.

Discard or clean any household items that have mold. Wash your bedding in hot water each week, and use a HEPA air filter to clear the indoor air of dust.

Be Mindful of Animals

Try to avoid furry pets, such as cats and dogs; if you already have one, don’t let your pet sleep in your bedroom, and give it a bath weekly. “With animal allergies, the amount of dander actually increases during the winter,” Dr. Posner adds.

Remember: what you always thought was just a winter “common cold” may very well be due to allergies. So, go see an allergist, determine what triggers your symptoms, and take care of yourself this winter.

Fellowship-trained, board certified allergists/immunologists at Allergy & Asthma Specialists provide comprehensive allergy and asthma diagnostics and state-of-the-art treatment at offices in Center City Philadelphia, Blue Bell, King of Prussia, Jenkintown, Doylestown, Lansdale, Pottstown, and Collegeville, PA. Schedule today online at www.AllergyandAsthmaWellness.com or call 1-800-86COUGH, select option 2.