IS IT A WINTER ALLERGY OR A COLD?
If you’re suffering from symptoms that include sneezing, coughing, a blocked and stuffy nose, watery, itchy eyes and throat, it could actually be a winter allergy – not a cold – playing havoc with your respiratory system.
Much like pollen in the hay fever season, there are several allergens that are common around the home especially at this time of year such as dust mites, pet hair and dander, mold spores and pollen from certain trees that pollinate in the winter.
During the colder months we tend to spend more time indoors with the windows closed, resulting in poor ventilation around the home.
For those in the North East, this mild winter can signify an early allergy season, since trees tend to start pollinating earlier. Dry, windy weather spreads pollen quickly, producing a higher distribution of pollen…increasing allergy symptoms.
So not only are you more likely to come into contact with a higher level of some of these allergens but the dry environment caused by central heating also dries up your nasal passages.
This prevents the nose from functioning effectively and makes you more susceptible to an allergic reaction when the allergens get on the mucosal lining of the nose.
Quite simply the symptoms of a cold can be associated with fever and will usually last no longer than around eight to 10 days but a winter allergy can cause the symptoms to go on considerably longer.
Here are some common but possibly unexpected triggers you may want to look out for:
Christmas Left Overs
Real Christmas trees can be covered in invisible mold spores and contain a group of chemicals called terpenes which can cause allergic reactions. Of these, 70 per cent can cause symptoms including itchy noses, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, chest pains, sinus congestion, feelings of fatigue and problems sleeping.
Plus, chances are your festive decorations will have been sitting in storage gathering dust, the ideal breeding ground for dust mites which are one of the most common causes of indoor allergies. More than likely before you packed them up – some of the mites decided to hang around.
You’ll need a very through cleaning of the house! Every counter, crevice needs to be wiped down with a “Green” product – not Windex as it often contains ammonia, which can trigger allergies. An old trick always does the job: baking soda and vinegar.
Minimize your exposure. Dust mites live in bedding, upholstered furniture and carpeting; mold grows in damp places such as bathrooms and basements; and pets — well, if you have a dog or a cat, you should at least keep the animal out of rooms where you spend a lot of time, such as your bedroom.
And cockroaches. They are a major allergen and are widely prevalent in urban settings — both housing and schools.
Here is something gross. A study of 831 houses across the country found that two-thirds of the homes had detectable levels of cockroach allergens, and higher levels were found in high-rise apartments and older, urban homes. (Nearly half of the homes had high enough levels of dust mite allergens to produce allergic reactions.)
If your symptoms are ongoing and annoying enough to interfere with work, play or sleep, in a single visit, an allergy test can find out what you’re allergic to with a simple skin test.