Why Do Allergies Get Worse in Winter? | Test Your Intolerance

During winter, cold weather and shorter days drive us to stay inside for the most part. Due to the cold, plants die in this season, and you’re less likely to be exposed to grass, weed, and tree pollen which are the major causes of allergies in summer, spring, and fall. Because you’ll be spending more time indoors during winter, you’ll now be exposed to allergens inside your home. It is hard to pin down winter allergies on colds because most houses are built tighter with better insulation and fewer drafts, and it’s hard to come across an open window in winter. However, all these precautions of keeping it warm inside can result in allergies because there isn’t enough air circulation, and the allergens in your home will get to you.

What causes winter allergies

Winter allergies can bring cough, sneezing, watery and itchy eyes, and a runny nose. When these symptoms occur immediately after the colder months have begun, most people believe it’s the flu. However, cold symptoms persist for seven to ten days, while allergen symptoms keep going whenever you’re exposed to the allergen. Colds and flu often bring about a fever. So if you don’t have a fever to accompany your symptoms, you’re likely suffering from allergies. If you suffer from indoor allergies, your allergies will worsen in winter because of the constant exposure since you can leave your home and stay outside. Staying indoors with windows tightly shut and the heating system recirculating indoor air can reduce ventilation which means allergens won’t go anywhere and keep building up. The allergens present in your home in winter include:

Dust mites

These small animals cause allergies all year round. Since they’re microscopic, they feed on skin that humans shed. These small animals enjoy warm cosy spaces that can accumulate dust, like beddings, carpets, and upholstered furniture in your home. Here, they can feed and reproduce. Even though they don’t bite or spread disease, dust mites shed droppings and body parts which can build up and trigger winter allergies.

Animal dander

If you have an allergic reaction to pet dander (found in their skin, fur, and saliva), you may not notice this during the warm months when you spend more time outside than inside. But when you’re all forced by the cold to share your space, their dander tends to accumulate, especially if you let them use your bed, sofa, and items that you use too that can hold onto their skin cells and fur {1}. All kinds of pets can cause allergies, including hamsters and rabbits.


Mould loves growing in dark and moist areas. This indicates that you could find mould in your bathroom, basement, and under sink. When mould grows, it produces spores which burst and float around the air, causing you to have allergies. Mould can also grow on cut wood, and in the right conditions, even on glass, paper, fabric, and plastic.

Cockroach droppings

Cockroaches trigger lots of allergies in urban areas. These small animals enter your home through windows and cracks in your door or walls. These animals come indoors in winter to seek warmth. The body parts, saliva and droppings of cockroaches can trigger allergies. If you have prolonged exposure to cockroaches, it can lead to sinuses or ear infections.

Symptoms of winter allergies

Allergy symptoms caused by dust mites, cockroach droppings, mould, and animal dander include:

  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy eyes and nose
  • Dark circles under the eyes

To differentiate these symptoms from a cold, you need to remember that a cold lasts for upto two weeks at most and is mainly accompanied by aches and pains, which don’t usually happen when you have allergies.

How to prevent winter allergies

If you put in some effort, there are ways you can prevent winter allergies, depending on your triggers. Even though you need to keep your home clean, when you have allergies, you need to have a high level of cleanliness.

  • Dust and vacuum every corner of your home, including your furniture.
  • To reduce exposure to dust mites, use hypoallergenic covers on your mattress and pillows.
  • Reduce fabric that catches dust, like carpets; instead, use hardwood floors. You can also get rid of your throw pillows.
  • Use premium air filters in your air conditioning and change them often.
  • Wash bedding, pillows, and curtains regularly in hot water.
  • If you have any rodent or insect infestation, call an exterminator as soon as possible since it’s common to have winter pest infestation{2}.
  • Seal your food and clean counters to prevent leaving behind any crumbs that may attract insects.
  • Fix any leaks in your home, and don’t allow mildew to have an encouraging environment to grow.
  • Use humidity to your advantage. You can use a humidifier or dehumidifier, depending on your needs.
  • Groom and bathe pets often, and also clean their beddings frequently.
  • Ensure your bedroom is pet free.

Winter allergy testing

Our Allergy Test Box Kit

Now that you know many other allergens in your home that could cause your winter allergies to worsen, it is best to narrow down the culprits. That’s why we recommend you get an Allergy Test. When you know which allergies you have, it can get easier to manage them. For example, if you’re allergic to your cat’s dander, you can find better ways to address that, either by taking your kitty to stay at your parent’s or friend’s place or having someone help you groom them frequently as you wash their beddings. Living and managing allergies is easier when you know your triggers. But when you have no clue what the trigger is, it can get challenging to manage your symptoms.

Winter allergies treatment

There is no way to heal allergies; however, there are medications that can help minimise your symptoms. These include:

  • Nasal sprays to fight inflammation
  • Antihistamines
  • Eye drops for dry and itchy eyes
  • Decongestants
  • Neti pots or nasal irrigation: distilled water flushes allergens away
  • Pain relief to reduce headaches and inflammation

Final thoughts on winter allergies

Even though there is no pollen in winter, you will still experience allergies because of the allergens present in your home. Staying indoors for more hours increases your allergen exposure. There are different ways you can manage your allergies and get by without feeling sick for the entire winter season. Taking an Allergy Test is also essential to determine your triggers. Once you know your triggers, you will have an easier way of managing your allergens.


  1. Pet dander. (2017). (https://www.lung.org/clean-air/at-home/indoor-air-pollutants/pet-dander)
  2. Winter pests 101. (2018). (https://www.pestworld.org/news-hub/pest-articles/winter-pests-101/)