There aren’t many grasses, trees or flowers pollinating this time of year, yet you have itchy eyes and a shopping basket full of tissues. It’s just not fair, right? It’s winter—and now you have to contend with indoor allergens. This time of year, it’s things like pet dander, dust mites, cockroaches, mice (yeah, yuck) and mold.
Of course, those indoor allergens are there year-round, but we stay inside more during the winter, which increases our exposure. Combine that with added travel for the holidays, staying in hotels and your cousin’s German Shepherd at Thanksgiving, it’s an equation for an all-out war on your sinuses.
You know that holiday wreath that you’ve been hanging on your front door since the year you were married? Well, that wreath, your Santa Clause collection and all the other decorations that have been sitting in your attic could have dust mites and mold. Oh yeah, let’s not forget that live Christmas trees naturally carry mold spores too.
While a crackly wood fireplace provides a cozy to atmosphere, burning the mold spores in firewood and even smoke can cause your allergies to flare up. Check your wood for mold and make sure the chimney is flue is wide open.
While all this sounds terrible, winter is also the time of year when numerous respiratory viral illnesses are rapidly spreading. It can be difficult to tell if your symptoms are due to allergies, cold or flu. It’s often the same old snotty nose, itchy or watery eyes, coughing from post-nasal drip and so on.
Here are a few tips to keep your tissue budget in check and help you breathe easier this season:
- Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands some more. Need we say it again?
- Cut down exposure by calling or texting your sick friends rather than sharing a charcuterie board with them.
- Monitor your symptoms. Viral symptoms typically last between 10-14 days, whereas allergic symptoms can be prolonged. Viruses often cause fevers, decreased appetite and muscle aches, which are generally not caused by allergies.
- Get your flu shot; it’ll increase your chances of beating that bug.
“If there is any concern for allergic symptoms during the winter, it is recommended that patients be evaluated by a board certified allergist. We can perform environmental skin prick allergy testing and let patients know specifically what they are allergic to within minutes,” says Dr. Lindsey Stoltz Steadman of Charleston Allergy and Asthma.
If you test positive for allergies and don’t find relief with over the counter or prescription medications, immunotherapy (allergy shots) could be your best bet. Check with your doctor to learn more about allergy shots and how they could benefit you. If you don’t have a doctor and would like to talk with one, call (843) 402-CARE for a referral.