Most of us associate annoying allergies with springtime.

But millions of people suffer from “winter allergies”— irritations that pop up during colder months when most of us spend lots of time indoors, often in poorly ventilated homes with minimal fresh air. 

Winter allergies can cause sneezing, wheezing, watery eyes, coughing, itchy eyes and nose, and difficulty breathing. If you’ve got asthma, or have a kid with asthma, allergies can exacerbate asthma symptoms, too. Not fun. 

Influenza can cause some of these symptoms as well. So if you feel acutely ill, congested, feverish and achy, get checked out to see if you are a candidate for a medication called Tamiflu which can decrease the severity of your symptoms. This year’s flu is a tough one. 

If you have been feeling mildly junky for a few weeks, winter allergies should be on your radar. Your doctor can

help you with the detective work, by differentiating cold, flu or allergy. Here are 3 of the most common winter allergies, and a few tips on how to deal with each one. 

Dust mites. 
These little critters are microscopic animals that hang out in your bed… because they like to nibble on flakes of human skin that you shed, during the night. Totally gross. 

Solution: Get a set of allergen-proof bedding (it’s made from a special fabric that dust mites don’t like to live in). Wash your bedding weekly in hot water, just in case. If your allergies are severe, consider swapping the rugs / carpeting in your bedroom for wood or cork floors. 

Cork is considered once of the best flooring choices for folks with allergies, because cork naturally contains suberin, a substance with antimicrobial properties that reduces the growth of mold, mildew, bacteria and other allergens. You can pretend you’re walking around on the top of a champagne bottle every night. We have these at Catalyst, and cork is easy on the legs too! 

Mold thrives in damp, humid areas like basements and bathrooms. Sometimes, it forms right on the surface of the wall (pretty easy to remove). Other times, it forms inside your walls (much harder to remove). 

It can be tough to detect without the right tools, but you can buy a mold detection kit from your local hardware store, or hire the pros to scan your home for you (just Google “mold inspection” + the name of your city). 

Solution: Get rid of that mold! You can kill mold with bleach, ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, and natural, no-fume products like vinegar and tea tree oil. 

However: it depends on where the mold is growing. If you’ve got mold growing on a porous surface (like a soft wood), it’s much harder to clean, because most household cleaning products won’t be able to penetrate deeply enough. 

Sometimes, you’ve got to call in the pros. (Google “mold removal” + the name of your city to find someone who can help). 

Once you’ve removed mold from your home, you’ll need to take some preventative measures to stop it from forming again — like fixing leaky roofs and poorly-ventilated bathrooms, for starters. (Here’s a list of ways to make your home mold-resistant. Basically: it comes down to reducing moisture!) 

If you’re allergic to a cute, cuddly animal, you’re probably not allergic to their fur — but rather, to a particular kind of protein found in pet dander (aka, old skin cells) as well as proteins found in saliva and urine. 

Pet allergies can become more severe in the wintertime because you and your pet are probably spending a lot more time indoors, in close quarters, with the windows sealed shut. If you’ve got a heating system that is blasting hot air through your home, that means it’s also blasting pet dander into every room! 

Solution: Make your bedroom an allergy-free zone. Get allergen-free bedding, clean the room thoroughly, and don’t let your pet inside (Sorry, Fido!). Get rid of furnishings that tend to collect pet dander, like big heavy drapes and thick carpets. Bathe your pet weekly to remove excess dander. (Here’s a list of more tips on how to deal with pet allergies, straight from your friends at the Humane Society.) 

Winter allergies are no fun. You may require testing to see which ones are affecting you. Saline nasal sprays like Ocean, Ayr or Simply Saline can help flush the little particles away before your tissues have a chance to react. But with a little common sense and some elbow grease, you can get to the root of the problem and prevent allergens from piling up on your bed, in your carpets, inside your walls, and inside your heating system. With a few adjustments around your home, you may start to feel relief very quickly.   

Wishing you a peaceful winter, full of good food, friends, family, and gently falling snowflakes—and not the sounds of sneezing, hacking, coughing! 

~ Dr. Sue