Winter allergies: symptoms, causes and treatment

Unlike seasonal allergies, indoor allergens trigger winter allergies, also known as indoor allergies. These allergens include dust, mold, pet dander, and cockroaches.

Indoor allergens are prevalent. About 90% of homes have three or more detectable allergens and 73% have at least one allergen at high levels. Additionally, more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year.

This article explains the symptoms, causes, and treatments for winter allergies, and whether those sniffles could be allergies or a cold.

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Winter allergy symptoms often affect the airways. Therefore, if you suffer from winter allergies, you may experience the following after exposure to an allergen:

  • To sneeze
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Red, itchy, watery eyes
  • Wheezing
  • To cough
  • Itching

People with respiratory allergies, including winter allergies, are more likely to develop asthma, especially in children. Therefore, limiting your exposure to known allergens is essential. Exposure to allergens can trigger an asthma attack if you already have asthma.


Anaphylaxis is a severe and life-threatening reaction to an allergen. Symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Blotchy and clammy skin
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • rapid heartbeat
  • Itching
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Eruption
  • Weakness

If you notice signs of anaphylaxis, seek medical attention immediately.


Dust, mold, pet dander and cockroach droppings cause winter allergies.


People allergic to dust are not allergic to dust. They are allergic to dust mites, tiny organisms that feed on dust and moisture. Dust mite allergies are the most common of all indoor allergies.

Dust mites thrive in temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit and high humidity. They are found in fabrics and other soft things, including:

  • Bedding
  • Carpet
  • Drapes
  • Stuffed animals

Since you can’t eliminate dust mites, frequent cleaning is key to keeping these allergens away.


You can find mold indoors and outdoors. Mold enters indoors through open doors and windows, HVAC systems, and leaks in roofs, walls, and pipes. Specific environments favor mold growth, including:

  • Cardboard
  • Carpet
  • Ceiling tiles
  • drywall
  • Dust
  • Insulation
  • To paint
  • Paper
  • Tapestry
  • Wallpaper
  • Wood

Controlling mold involves keeping humidity low, repairing leaks, and providing adequate ventilation in bathrooms and kitchens.

Pet dander

People often think that pet allergies are due to pet hair, but allergies result from exposure to pet dander found in pet skin. Additionally, proteins found in the urine and saliva of pets can also cause allergies in some people. Although pet hair is not a direct allergen, pets can carry other allergens on their fur, including dust and pollen.

Cats are the biggest culprits of pet allergies. Twice as many people are allergic to cats as to dogs.

cockroach droppings

A cockroach allergy is an allergy to body parts, saliva, and waste products. While people often associate cockroaches with dirty living conditions, this is not the case. Cockroaches are well adapted to living with humans, and as scavengers they forage for food in human homes.

Cockroaches hide in cracks in houses and tend to emerge at night. Controlling a cockroach allergy involves keeping cockroaches out of your home by sealing cracks, keeping pet food sealed and away, rinsing and cleaning dishes, trapping them, and spraying pesticides.

Cold vs Allergies

Since colds and allergies have overlapping symptoms, it can be hard to tell which ones you might be experiencing, especially during the winter months. But, there are some telling differences.

  • Caused by allergens

  • Suddenly turns on

  • Resolves when allergen is removed

  • May include itchy and watery eyes

  • Does not understand fever

  • Clear, watery nasal discharge


Although there is no cure for winter allergies, there are many treatments that can help you manage them. However, you may need to experiment with different medications before you find the one that works best.

nasal spray

Nasal sprays work by reducing inflammation and blocking histamine to relieve allergy symptoms. Nasal sprays are the most effective allergy treatment, but you need to use them regularly to get good results.


Histamines are chemicals your body produces in response to exposure to an allergen. This is what produces the allergy symptoms you experience. Antihistamines work by blocking histamine so you can find relief from allergy symptoms.


Decongestants work to clear up congestion, which is a welcome relief when you have winter allergies that include nasal symptoms. They work by thinning the mucous membranes to facilitate the drainage of mucus.

Injections against allergies

Allergy shots (immunotherapy) are different from other allergy treatments in that they are not used to manage symptoms. Instead, allergy shots work to build your tolerance to allergens by injecting small amounts in increasing doses over time.

The goal of allergy shots is to desensitize you to the point that your allergies bother you much less after treatment is complete.

home remedies

In addition to medication, there are things you can do at home to manage your allergies. The most effective treatment for allergies is to eliminate exposure to allergens.

There is no cure for winter allergies, but there are ways to prevent allergy flare-ups.

Use a dehumidifier

A dehumidifier can help keep allergens at bay if you have indoor allergies. That’s because major winter allergens, like dust and mold, thrive in high humidity levels. Dehumidifiers are therefore particularly useful in rooms that tend to be humid, such as basements.

Vacuum regularly

Get into the habit of vacuuming once a week with a vacuum that has a filter designed to control allergies and asthma. A good vacuum cleaner is essential if you suffer from winter allergies. A poor quality vacuum cleaner can stir up more dust and allergens than it cleans.

In addition to your carpets, be sure to vacuum the upholstery. While you’re cleaning, wearing a dust mask can help you avoid inhaling the dust you’re stirring up.

Wash your sheets

Wash your bedding weekly in hot water and dry it in the dryer on high heat to kill dust mites. Additionally, covering your mattress and pillows with allergen-resistant covers can keep allergens locked in and away from your face.

Seal cracks in windows and doors

To prevent pollen allergens from entering your home, make sure cracks and crevices are sealed. Sealing cracks in pipes can also help prevent mold, while sealing cracks elsewhere can keep cockroaches out of your home.

Keep pets out of the bedroom

If you have pet allergies, think carefully about getting a pet, as dealing with pet dander can be difficult. If you have a pet and have winter allergies, keep your pet out of your bedroom to limit your allergy symptoms.

Replacing carpet with hardwood floors can make pet dander more manageable. Frequent grooming of pets can also help. However, you may want another person to do this task or wear a mask while brushing or bathing your pet.


Winter allergies can be frustrating. But the good news is that once you identify the triggers, you can learn to manage your symptoms. The best way to control allergies is to eliminate exposure to allergens. Additionally, many people find relief with over-the-counter or prescription medications or allergy shots.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you be allergic to the cold?

    You cannot be allergic to the temperature; However, when you retire indoors during the colder months, you may be exposed to indoor allergens more regularly.

  • When do winter allergies start?

    Winter allergies are also called indoor allergies. As such, people often experience it all year round. However, when you head inland during the colder months, they can be more pronounced. Thus, you will be able to discover them more between November and February.

  • How long do winter allergies usually last?

    Depending on the climate where you live, winter allergies can be short or long lasting. They can last up to four or five months in colder climates.

  • Why are my allergies worse in the winter than in the fall?

    Your allergies may be worse in the winter than in the fall. This is because as the weather gets colder and you spend more time indoors, you are more consistently exposed to indoor allergens.

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