Allergies Don’t Hibernate

Cold Weather Allergens Require Different Precautions, Treatments

Most people think freezing temperatures mean taking a season off from pesky pollen and other allergens. However, despite the chill, offending allergies can be even more problematic this time of year.

Dr. Daniel Todd, MD from Midwest Ear, Nose and Throat, works with patients year-round to prevent, treat and potentially cure their winter allergies. "People tend to stay indoors so there are other allergens that can become an issue," he says. "In fact, our tightly sealed, well-insulated homes can aggravate the problem of winter allergies." What to look for are dust mites, animal dander and molds. But how you react to these winter weather allergens is different from seasonal allergies, which cause more hay fever-like symptoms. "If you have symptoms such as congestion, headache and drainage, you likely are suffering from winter allergies." 

 

Just as the triggers and symptoms differ from seasonal allergies, so do the precautions and treatments. Although some do cross over, there are a number of treatments that can prevent a reaction. These steps include reducing humidity in the home, washing bedding weekly in hot water, removing carpet and cleaning hard-surface floors using a damp mop to reduce stirring up dust. "You may also find that it helps to open a window or door on warmer days to air out your house right after cleaning so the allergens and dust you've kicked up have a place to escape," Dr. Todd says.

However, despite taking the proper precautions, you can still suffer from a sinus infection. It's important to keep in mind that because there are fewer hay fever symptoms, traditional antihistamines are less effective. Dr. Todd recommends decongestants and anti-inflammatory medications such as steroids, which unfortunately carry side effects. To avoid these, another option is topical solutions and nasal rinses. "Patients often find relief with spraying and rinsing the nose and using eye drops rather than taking pills orally," he adds. "I always have my patients rinse their nose out with saline at least once a day and follow it with the regular use of a nasal steroid spray." And don't forget to keep nasal membranes healthy and moist by applying antibacterial ointment to the nostrils.

As for permanent, year-round cures to allergic sensitivities, he suggests allergy shots and nasal surgery as the best options. "By getting regular injections, the body becomes desensitized to the allergen, making the patient permanently immune." If someone has such chronic and severe obstructive symptoms that these therapies are not enough, surgery is a final option.

So just because the thermometer has dropped, allergens can remain on the rise. Be sure to take proper precautions and use the correct medications and treatments for the season.

By Jennifer Dumke: Sioux Falls Woman Magazine