If you suffer from allergies or hay fever you’ll be no stranger to the itchy eyes, the runny nose or the constant sneezing. You’ll also be very familiar of those high-trigger seasons - spring pollen we’re looking at you! However, what do you do when these allergens strike in winter? Here we share potential allergy triggers during the colder months and how you can rid your home of them this winter.
Potential causes of winter allergies
While your symptoms of winter allergies may not vary much from those you have during spring and summer, the causes of allergies are not always the same and can vary depending on the time of year. Potential causes can include:
- Mould - the winter months can produce pretty damp and cold conditions which creates the perfect breeding ground for mould to grow.
- Pet dander - the combination of the heating on and the cold weather can give your beloved furry friends dry skin. The scalp beneath their fur can become dandruffy as a result and can easily transfer onto surfaces throughout the home triggering your allergies.
- Dust mites - dust mites live in warm, damp environments and can be found in bedding, furniture and carpets. Using the indoor heating and not washing your bedding regularly can contribute to allergic triggers.
Is it a cold or is it allergies?
You may have noticed that you’re not the only one sniffling at this time of year! So, with that in mind, it may be time to consider whether your running nose is caused by allergens or the common cold. Runny nose - check, stuffy head - check, coughing - check, allergies share many of the same symptoms as the cold so it may be tricky at first glance to identify the source of your symptoms.
That being said there are a few key differences that can help you figure out if you should be reaching for the decongestants or the antihistamines:
- A cold lasts several days up to two weeks whereas, allergies can last between several days to months - sorry allergy sufferers!
- It’s unlikely for a cold to strike during spring and summer (although it can happen!), whereas allergies can strike at any time of the year depending on your triggers.
- Symptoms of a cold will not appear straight away, they usually appear a few days after infection.
- Symptoms of allergies will happen almost immediately after exposure to a potential trigger.
- Colds often don’t cause eye-watering and itching whereas, for allergic rhinitis sufferers this is a common symptom
How to rid your home of allergic triggers during winter
1) Dust regularly
We placed this at the top of our list as it’s the simplest way to help keep allergens at bay. Dusting regularly can remove dust particle build-up and help to prevent you sneezing throughout the winter months. Try to dust at least once every couple of weeks and, if you’re still struggling with your symptoms, increase this to a minimum of once a week.
Ensuring that all your indoor surfaces are dust-free will help to keep your symptoms under control as well as help to improve the quality of your indoor air. As we spend more time indoors in winter the quality of our air is so important.
2) Keep your home well ventilated
During the spring, opening your windows is not always a good idea as doing so can allow pesky pollen into your home triggering hay fever symptoms. However, the same cannot be said during winter. During winter it is important to keep your home well ventilated to prevent germs and mould from building up in your home.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll want to open your windows to let cold air in, you can buy humidifiers that can do the job for you instead. During winter we often turn the central heating on in our attempt to stay warm, however this often leads to drier air in the home.
Dry air can lead to a number of irritants such as dry or itchy skin and asthma symptoms. Dry air can also mean that your nasal passages aren’t getting the moisture that they need to naturally dislodge any allergens that you breathe in.
Remember that it’s important to get the balance right when it comes to the air in your home - not humid enough will result in dry air while too much humidity can result in damp conditions. Damp conditions can create the perfect conditions for mould to grow which can then trigger allergens. If you don’t want to invest money in a humidifier, you can achieve similar effects by place a bowl of water nearby a radiator.
3) Have pet-free home zones
If your allergens are triggered by your much-loved furry friends then you might want to consider having pet-free zones in your home. Did you know that it’s not the fur of your pets that cause your allergens to flare up, it’s actually the pet dander that causes your symptoms!
The colder weather can affect your furry friends too, the central heating can dry out your pet's skin causing small dandruff-like flakes. This, in turn, can then result in the classic sneezing, running nose and itchy eyes that we’d rather avoid. If you really struggle with pet-related allergens during winter, we’d recommend keeping your bedroom a no-pet zone, at least until your symptoms subside.
4) Wipe down bathroom and kitchen areas thoroughly
Like dusting, it’s important to clean your bathroom and kitchen extra thoroughly if you suffer from allergens. Mould and mildew can easily build-up in sneaky areas. Be sure to focus on the areas behind the sink faucet as we can often forget to wipe here meaning that contaminants are free to grow. Mould spores are one of the biggest allergen contributors and your kitchen and bathroom can make the perfect spot for them to grow.
While thoroughly cleaning your kitchen and bathroom every day might not be practical, it’s important to try to stick to a consistent and regular routine. Aim to clean your bathroom weekly with an effective cleaner that can tackle and dissolve mould and grime with ease. Wipe your kitchen counters down at least once every evening with a sanitising cleaner so that they are ready for the next day’s food preparation.
If you suffer from hay fever during spring and summer, you could be forgiven for believing that you have hay fever in winter too. However, winter hay fever is actually fairly uncommon as trees and plants lose their leaves. Usually, when we experience hay fever-like symptoms in winter it’s actually because we are spending more time inside.
Mould and dust-mites inside the home can trigger allergen symptoms that are the same as those you’d get with hay fever. It’s therefore important to keep your home as free and clear of them as possible. Use high-quality products that are free from harmful chemicals to effectively destroy these contaminants so you can breathe easy this winter.