Winters are here, and the chilly weather reminds us hot coffee and pakoras while we curl up in a blanket. Isn't it? However, the truth is we do have to walk out expose ourselves to the cold and different allergens. Along with the amazing things we love about winters, there are some who are left tormented by the allergies of this season. A big problem with winter allergies is that cold-weather lifestyles can turn a simple allergic reaction into something worse. Moreover, the low density caused by winter does not allow pollutants to settle down thus giving rise to winter allergies, making the situations worse. Winter Beauty Tips: How To Care For Your Hair and Skin In The Cold Months.
Another big problem that we face during winters is the difficulty in distinguishing an allergy from a cold. Since the two share similar symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, and congestion, matters get worse. An allergy is your body’s immune system response to an irritant or trigger. Also, a cold usually doesn't last for more than ten days whereas the allergies can linger for weeks or even months and more. The cold and flu sometimes come along with fever, aches and pains, which don’t usually happen with allergies. Dr RSK Sinha, Internal Medicine Specialist, Jaypee Hospital, Noida shares with us some of the most common winter allergies and ways to combat them.
Here are some of the most common winter allergies
Wheezing- Wheezing, tightness of chest, difficulty in breathing and coughing are the most common signs of respiratory allergies. Pets also spend more time indoors during the winter season, increasing your exposure to dander escalates.
Pet dander (hair)- Most people are not allergic to animal fur, but rather to a protein found in the pet dander, saliva, and urine. Winter can cause more flare-ups in allergies than usual. This is because your pets are likely to spend far more time inside when the weather is cold than they do in summer. You're also less likely to leave your windows and doors open, which means your house isn't well-ventilated in winter. Be sure to vacuum more regularly than you usually would. Keep your pets out of your bedroom and discourage them from lying on the couches.
Skin Allergies- Skin allergies like eczema, atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis are common during the winter season. Itching and redness are common in areas that come in direct contact with the allergens. Skin allergies can occur immediately after the exposure or a few days after the skin contact.
Conjunctivitis- Redness of the eye and itching are the common difficulties that are associated with conjunctivitis. Allergic conjunctivitis is not contagious. This is one of the most common types of allergies in winter, which can cause a cough and stuffy nose.
Allergic Shiners- Allergic shiners is one of the types of allergies that occurs during the winter season. This is a condition that is presented as dark circles under the eyes. An allergic reaction can increase the flow of blood near the sinuses. This is one of the critical things to know about winter allergies. It can be associated with allergic conjunctivitis as well.
Wool- Knitted jerseys, scarves and beanies may help to fight off the cold, but they can also irritate your skin. While many people break out in red itchy bumps when wearing woollen clothing, the majority are just sensitive to the coarse texture of the wool. Others can develop allergic contact dermatitis as a result of wearing wool. Be careful of cheap wools as these may have added chemicals. If you suffer from severe contact dermatitis, it is probably best to avoid wool all together and perhaps choose to clothe made of synthetic wool, cotton or other materials.
Cockroach Droppings- These persistent pests can live anywhere, and while they’re not a sign of an unclean or unsanitary household, it’s essential to keep food well-contained and be vigilant about cleaning up crumbs. Fixing leaky faucets and pipes and sealing up cracks and crevices in your home can help keep cockroaches away.
Dust mites- If you suffer from an allergy to dust mites, you may have noticed that your allergies worsen during winter. Reducing the amount of dust in your home will help to improve your allergy symptoms. As with pet dander sensitivities vacuuming your house more regularly during winter will help.
Here are things you can do to minimise the exposure to the allergens.
Remove wall-to-wall carpet- especially carpet over concrete. Animal dander and moulds can become trapped in carpet and rugs, and dampness can accumulate between the concrete and pad/carpet, creating an environment for dust mites and fungus.
Minimise contact with pets- Keep them strictly out of the bedrooms to reduce the amount of allergen in the room.
Bathe your pets weekly- If possible, to wash away dander and other allergens from their fur.
Change your clothes- bathe and wash your hair after playing with your pet and before going to bed.
Wash bedding in hot water (at least 130° F)- once a week to reduce the dust mite load in the bedding.
Encase pillows and mattresses- in impermeable covers to reduce exposure to dust mites.
Immediately wipe down wet surfaces- especially in the bathrooms and kitchen, to keep mould from growing.
Use a humidifier to reduce dryness in the air- but don't turn your home into a rain forest: Dust mites thrive in humidity over 60 percent and temperatures of 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Mould also grows faster in high humidity. Rank recommends a maximum humidity of 50 percent.
Use exhaust fans- While taking showers or cooking in the kitchen to switch on the exhaust fan to get rid of excess odour and humidity, clean the filters of your air-conditioning or heater units.
Using a room heater? make sure to replace its furnace filter to improve the indoor air quality.
Do not smoke indoors- Especially if there is no ventilation within the room. Remember, being close to smokers can easily aggravate coughing and breathing problems in those who are sensitive to winter allergies. Sometimes, Agarbatti smoke can also act as a trigger.
Eat the right food- Green tea is known to have an excellent impact on health when consumed in winter. Similarly, certain foods like cucumber, ice-cream, bananas, cheese, yoghurt etc. have a reputation for causing an allergic reaction in many, especially for those suffering from asthma problem. Food items that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants protect your immune system and keep you away from allergies. Also keep yourself adequately hydrated and take plenty of rest.