Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Hay Fever in December | Test Your Intolerance

Hay fever is a common issue during summer and other months when there is lots of pollination and greenery. In the summer especially, it is common to find people sniffling and sneezing because hay fever seems to be in the air. Since plants don’t pollinate during winter, it is highly unlikely to suffer from hay fever since there is no pollen in the air. Most people have made their peace with hay fever; around 40% of children and 30% of adults suffer from allergic rhinitis {1}. But even though there is no pollen in the air during the cold months, it is still apparent that allergies persist even during December.

Since you’re spending more time indoors, your allergen symptoms are also indoors. Most times, what we confuse for hay fever is allergic rhinitis. When you have an allergy, it always opens the door to more allergies. For example, when you have hay fever because of grass pollen, you can suffer from other common allergies in your home. People suffering from allergic rhinitis have an immune system that reacts to various substances in the air. Pollen is the most prevalent cause of allergic rhinitis. However, it isn’t the only cause of this condition.

Common causes for allergies in December

Some substances in your home could cause allergies during the cold months when you have to spend lots of time indoors. These include:

Pest dander

Animal dander (skin flakes, not animal hair) commonly causes chronic rhinitis in people. Your allergies to pets tend to worsen in winter since you’ll spend more time close to your cats and dogs than in the other warm months. Even though most people assume that pet fur is the cause of allergies, it’s not. Your pets tend to groom themselves, which involves scratching their bodies, which releases dander that sticks to your furniture, carpets, and bedding. Dander is a protein in saliva, urine, and animal fur or feathers. Most people are more sensitive to cat dander; however, during the colder months, dog allergies may worsen because of their need for heavy winter coats.

Mould

As winter approaches, mould can appear in our homes, lurking in the bathroom and cupboards and creeping around the corners of our rooms. Even though it could be just a little mould, spending most of your time indoors during winter causes discomfort. Mould and mildew thrive in dark, moist places, so you’ll need to look for it under your sink, basement, and bathrooms. Even though mould growth is always hidden, it produces spores that float around the air, causing allergy symptoms.

Dust mites

Dust mites are the most common allergen causing indoor allergies{2}. Dust mites feed on substances that make up dust in your home. This could be animal dander, skin cells, and insect parts. Dust mites are present almost in every home lurking in carpets, furniture, and bedding. The faeces of dust mites contain digestive enzymes which can give them energy. However, this enzyme can be an allergen for humans. It is also common for dust to build up in radiators during the warm months, and once you turn it on in winter, the collection of dust and dust mites can be blown into the air causing your allergies to worsen.

Cockroach dropping

Cold weather can drive cockroaches indoors, and once you leave food crumbs all around the house, they thrive on this and grow in numbers. It is common to find cockroaches and their dropping in dark areas such as cupboards, behind appliances, or under the sink. These pests aren’t a sign of an unclean home, but you should contain your food well and be vigilant when cleaning food crumbs around your home.

Chemical irritants

Irritants may be causing an allergic reaction or irritate your respiratory tract causing symptoms that resemble an allergic reaction. These irritants can be found in surface cleaners, furniture polish, toilet cleaners, air fresheners and even laundry detergent. These items are loaded with lots of harmful chemicals. According to Asthma UK, individuals using lots of cleaning products as part of their jobs, like nurses and janitors, are at a higher risk of developing asthma.

Airborne dust particles

Dust is everywhere: skin flakes, hair from humans and animals, dirt, crumbs, clothing fibres, and insect parts. Window treatments, furniture, and beddings are dust catchers. Filters in your air conditioners get dirty and clogged, and using them releases dust into the air. It is common for the dust to get lodged all over the house, which can cause you to suffer from sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes constantly.

When suffering from allergic rhinitis, once you inhale those particles, your body releases substances involved in the inflammatory process, including histamines. Substances like histamines cause your body to have these symptoms of allergies. Most times, it’s easy for people with winter allergies to pass it off as a cold, considering no pollination occurs in December.

Difference between cold and allergies

Since most people assume their allergies are cold during cold months, it is essential to know the difference between these two for proper diagnosis.

  • Length: While a cold can last upto two weeks, allergies go on for months or longer. Once you realise your symptoms aren’t going away, it’s probably an allergy rather than a cold.
  • Time: Even though a cold can occur at any time of the year, it is widespread in spring and winter. However, an allergy occurs at any time of the year.
  • Symptoms: Cold symptoms appear a few days after infection, while allergy symptoms appear immediately when exposed to allergens. While the common symptoms of a cold are body aches and fevers, you won’t experience aches and fever when suffering from an allergy. A cold causes a runny nose, cough, and stuffiness. Alternatively, an allergy results in all the cold symptoms but includes itchy eyes.
  • Eyes and throat: While a cold causes a sore throat, this isn’t common when suffering from allergies. A cold doesn’t cause itchy and watery eyes, while an allergy causes both.

Preventing allergies in December

Prevention is the only way to prevent exposure to allergens during the cold months. Here are some ways to avoid it.

  • To reduce moisture indoors, use a dehumidifier and keep the moisture levels at 30 to 50 per cent.
  • Use a casing to protect your pillows and bedding to keep dust mites away.
  • When vacuuming, ensure you use a HEPA filter to help you reduce most of the allergen particles from surfaces.
  • Regularly clean your clothes, upholstery cover, and bedding in hot water to reduce the occurrence of dust mites.
  • You can remove your carpeting and replace it with wood flooring, tile or linoleum.
  • Find leaks in your home and fix them. If you have leaks in your bathroom, pipes, roof, or basement, it is essential to stop moisture from building up and creating an environment where cockroaches, dust mites, and mould can thrive.
  • Seal cracks and openings in your windows, doors and walls where cockroaches can get in
  • Clean areas where mould can grow with 5% bleach solution and water.
  • Clean up any leftovers and crumbs in your kitchen and dining area after you and your pets have eaten.
  • Limit the time you spend with your pets. If they can’t spend time outdoors, limit them from accessing certain areas of your home like the living room, bedroom or kitchen.

Allergy testing

Our Allergy Test Box Kit

If you experience allergies during the cold months, it’s clear that they could result from various things. However, narrowing down the cause of allergies can help you nip them in the bud and eliminate your triggers. You can order an  Allergy Test, which will look for common allergens in your food, environment and drinks. This will help you know what’s causing you these symptoms and how to avoid them so you can live a more fulfilling life.

References

  1. In-Depth Review of Allergic Rhinitis (2020). (https://www.worldallergy.org/education-and-programs/education/allergic-disease-resource-center/professionals/in-depth-review-of-allergic-rhinitis)
  2. Arlian, L. G., & Platts-Mills, T. A. (2001). The biology of dust mites and the remediation of mite allergens in allergic disease. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 107(3), S406-S413.  (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S009167490148153X)