Most of us associate our allergy symptoms with Spring when everything is turning green and blooming, but winter can have its own triggers for allergy symptoms. With the cold weather causing us to stay indoors more, there are a variety of triggers that bring on winter allergy symptoms. Even the winter holidays come with allergy pitfalls. Being aware of what causes these winter allergy symptoms can help you plan and find natural solutions to minimize or avoid the misery allergy symptoms can cause. Here are some things to do to keep your allergy symptoms from ruining your winter.
Pollen allergies aren’t as prevalent in the winter when the temperatures are colder. Instead allergy symptoms can be a reaction to mold spores, dust mites, and animals. When you start using your heating system, there can by dust, mold and even parts of insects released into your air. When it is very cold and the pets have to come inside, you may discover an increase in allergy symptoms if you are sensitive to pet dander. Another wintertime culprit is the fireplace. Ash and smoke can trigger asthma attacks so be aware if you have guests or family members with asthma. If you find yourself coughing, having a runny or itchy nose or eyes, or sneezing, you may think you are catching a cold, but it could be that you are showing allergy symptoms. If you are not sure whether your symptoms are cold or flu related or allergy related, see if you have a fever or body aches and pains. These symptoms are not usual with allergic reactions. Another clue is how long your symptoms last. A cold is usually gone in 10 days or less whereas allergy symptoms can remain longer. If you still are not sure, then you can have allergy testing done with a skin test or blood test.
If you do find that you have allergy symptoms related to dust or mold, get rid of anything that could be harboring mold such as shower curtains, rugs or carpets, use a dehumidifier to keep humidity below 50% and a HEPA air filter to clean the air. If your symptoms are related to a pet that needs to be indoors in the winter, keep the pet in a separate room from where you sleep. If you have more severe symptoms due to pet dander you may have to confine the pet to a separate room for more times than just sleeping or in the most severe cases, find a new home for the pet. Extra cleaning of furniture, carpets and bedding during times you are showing symptoms can also help cut down on allergens in your indoor environment.
Holiday Related Allergies
For those who celebrate Christmas, a live Christmas tree can cause allergy symptoms according to Marilyn Li, MD, an asthma and allergy specialist with the Los Angeles County & University of Southern California Medical Center. She explains that trees cut early are often kept in humid places and this causes spore growth. There may also be pollen on the tree or a reaction can come from the sap. An artificial tree may be the solution for some people, but artificial trees that have been stored away all year can have dust and mold too. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to give up your holiday tree. You can wear gloves when handling the tree, shake it off outside and spray it off with water before bringing it in the house. Leave it outside in a covered area to dry off and you may get rid of some of the allergens without bringing them inside. For an artificial tree, take it outside and give it a good shaking or dusting before bringing it back in. The same is true for decorations that have been in storage all year. They are often dusty and need cleaning before use. If you stored your decorations last year in airtight containers and dusted them good before storing then you’ll be ahead of the game. If you didn’t then consider doing it this year. Also using glass or plastic ornaments instead of cloth ornaments can help cut down on allergy symptoms as they don’t hold dust as well and are easier to wash or dust off.
Another holiday irritant can be the scents used. Whether it is from candles, sprays or potpourri, some of these scents can cause allergy symptoms. If you really need to have the scents of Christmas around you, use natural herbs and spices that you can hang in room decorations or boil in water on the wood or pellet stove. Baking bread or cookies can also fill the house with wonderful Christmas smells. The poinsettia is another holiday tradition that can cause problems for some people. If you are having guests for the holidays or have a family member with an allergy to latex, then poinsettia is not a good decoration choice. Find another type of red flowers or an artificial poinsettia to brighten up the room.
Natural Solutions for Winter Allergies
There is help for winter allergies with natural solutions to your allergy symptoms. Here are a few you can explore to see which work well for you.
- Neti Pot – You can find these at just about any drug store. This is a natural solution to wash out your nasal cavity with saline water by pouring water from the small pot into one nostril and letting it flow out through the other nostril. If you just can’t bring yourself to do the neti pot, then a saline solution spray may help flush out your nose.
- Homeopathy – Homeopathic remedies can change how your body responds to allergy triggers rather than just suppress allergy symptoms. The premise behind homeopathy is that if you introduce a small amount of what is causing your symptoms into the body, your body will start recognizing it and not attack it as a foreign invader. You can get help in using this approach from a professional homeopath or find remedies that match your symptoms in your local health food store.
- Plan your day – Check out weather forecasts on TV or the internet that give pollen counts for your area and plan your day or week according to when counts are low to do outdoor activities. Pollen is usually higher in the morning so doing outdoor activities may be best planned for afternoons.
- Butterbur – Phytotherapy Research is one of numerous sources reporting studies showing that butterbur leaf extract can work as well as an antihistamine for allergy symptoms. You should consult your healthcare provider before using an extract with butterbur because it has alkaloids that can affect the liver. These alkaloids can be extracted, so you want to make sure your extract has used this removal process. An extract called Ze 339 has been reported as effective for allergy symptoms. Butterbur is related to ragweed so there have been questions raised as to its use for people with ragweed allergies, but studies have not indicated this to be a problem even for ragweed sufferers.
- Acupuncture – Numerous studies have shown acupuncture to be effective in relieving allergy symptoms. Traditionally acupuncture needles placed in specific points around the nasal area can help ease allergy symptoms or completely get rid of them. A newer acupuncture technique, Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET) works by exposing the person to the thing they are allergic to while applying acupressure and acupuncture to reprogram the body’s immune system to not view the allergen as an invader to attack.
- Supplements – There are supplements that have been found effective in dealing with allergy symptoms. You want to make sure if you are on medications or have health conditions that you check with your healthcare provider to ensure they are safe for you. Quercetin and tinospora cordifolia, often used in Ayurvedic medicine, are two of these. Tinospora cordifolia has antioxidant properties which can help increase immune system activity. Quercetin is a flavonoid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Probiotics can help strengthen your immune system and help in this way with allergy symptoms. Good probiotics to add to your diet include a full spectrum probiotic, acidophilus and bifidus. Another way to add super antioxidant nutrition to boost your immune system is with a supplement of red beta algae, kale sprouts, red clover sprouts and wheat sprouts. This supplement is loaded with chlorophyll, glutathione, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients giving you the extra antioxidant protection to fight off free radicals. Another way to give your immune system a boost is through a supplement that harnesses the power of medicinal mushrooms and beta glucan. This supplement combines reishi, cordyceps, maitake, shiitake, Turkey Tail, and Agaricus blazei mushrooms with astragalus, beta glucan and bluegreen algae. Based on extensive published research, it is widely accepted that the beta 1,3 glucan derived from baker’s yeast is the most potent anti-infective beta glucan immunomodulator. Add in this combination of bluegreen algae and mushrooms and you have a powerful immune system friend on your side.
Winter can be a great time of year, but not if you suffer with winter allergy symptoms. We hope you have a great winter season, a happy holiday season and an allergy-free season. Try out some of these natural solutions to winter allergy symptoms for yourself and find what works for you.