By Cassandra Mayall
More than 50 million Americans struggle with allergies every year. Many of these allergies occur in the winter, but are easily mistaken for a cold as the symptoms can be similar, but it’s important to distinguish between the two. Pollen isn’t just an issue during spring and summer; in fact some plants polli-
nate in the winter, but additionally other indoor allergens can be problematic too.
‘Tis The Season
Winter allergies can be triggered by winter festivities, including your Christmas tree and seasonal food. Your Christmas tree can harbor mold spores and microscopic allergens that can trigger symptoms. This can be combated by hosing the tree down before bringing it into the family home to help remove allergens and discarding of it as soon as possible after you’re done with the tree to limit exposure and relieve symptoms. Synthetic trees are another option, but it’s a good idea to hose these down too if they’ve been stored somewhere where mold spores can get to them.
Seasonal food can also present food allergies that you may not know you have or you may be unaware of what food it is in, particularly as people tend to eat at other people’s homes more at this time of year. Make the person preparing the food aware of a food allergy in the family, and if you’re in doubt, then bring your own snacks to munch on.
Avoiding The Cold
Another trigger for winter allergies is the simple fact that people spend more time indoors to keep warm. Air indoors has been found to be two to five times more polluted indoors than outdoors, directly impacting your health. Commonly used cleaning products that contain chemicals add a lot of pollution to the air indoors and can trigger allergy symptoms, such as skin irritation, headaches and a runny nose. Children are more sensitive to chemicals in prod- ucts, so try to use them when they’re not home or in a different room and open windows to improve the air quality. Even better, switch to natural cleaning products to avoid the issue altogether, which can be bought or made at home.
It’s inevitable that you’ll spend time outdoors in the winter, where pollen can still get the better of you. Cedar pollen is responsible for a lot of winter aller- gies, pollinating between December and March. It gives off such large amounts of pollen that the trees look like smoke is coming off them. They mainly grow in South and Central Texas, but high winds in the winter can spread the pollen great distances, affecting many people on its way. Symptoms are similar to hay fever, such as congestion, runny nose and itchy eyes, earning it the name cedar fever.
Winter allergies are common, so it’s important to understand if your symptoms are caused by a cold or an allergen. Identifying the trigger means you can avoid it and manage your symptoms, which will make you feel a lot better throughout the colder months.