For many people in Athens, this is the hap-happiest season of all. While the holidays bring laughter and joy, they can also cause coughing, sneezing, runny nose and congestion. That’s enough to dampen anybody’s spirit.
Wait…Allergies Can Occur in the Winter, Too?
There’s a common perception that allergies are confined to the spring and summer months, when trees, grasses and plants release pollen into. But this isn’t true, as anybody in Athens who is sniffling and sneezing through winter during the coldest and darkest months of the year can attest.
Why the sudden spike in allergies around the holidays? Indoor allergens are mostly to blame.
Common Winter allergy triggers:
Food allergens are everywhereThe holidays are more like the high-calorie days. Between cookies, pie, cake, candy—not to mention turkey, ham, stuffing, and rolls (is your mouth watering yet?), those with food allergies are more likely to come across something they are allergic to this time of year. Choose your foods wisely, no matter how tempting, to prevent an allergic reaction.
Mold is more common in damp monthsDamp, cool weather—common during the holiday season in many parts of the country—is ideal for mold and mildew growth. Mold is frequently found in evergreens (think Christmas trees and wreaths) and decaying autumn leaves. Raking may feel like a chore, but getting rid of those leaves can spare you from misery later on.
Pets spend more time indoors when it’s coldDogs and cats tend to spend more time indoors during the holidays—Fluffy doesn’t like the cold any more than you do! We’re grateful for the company of our furry friends, but their dander can trigger allergies in many people. Vacuum frequently, bathe your pets often and keep them out of your bedroom and off the furniture to help spare your sinuses.
Fireplaces spread ash even when you can’t see itThere’s nothing cozier than a crackling fire on a cold winter evening, but wood-burning fireplaces produce particulates that can irritate the sinuses and worsen allergy symptoms. Limit fires to the coldest nights (and be sure the flue is open before lighting the log!). A High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter can remove particles as fine as 0.3 microns, helping you to breathe more easily.
Evergreen trees make for sneeze inducing decorationsLive trees and holiday wreaths are festive and bring the scent of the forest indoors, but mold spores are attracted to evergreen decorations and may cause you misery. If you’re sensitive, stick to an artificial tree and a few pine-scented candles or air diffusers.
Dust mites love your winter blanketsThese microscopic allergens make themselves at home in blankets and sheets…exactly what we turn to when the weather turns cold. If your allergies flare up during the winter months, try allergen-resistant pillow and mattress covers and wash your bedding in hot water frequently in order to discourage dust mites from taking up long-term residence.
For more tips on preventing allergies from dampening your holiday spirit, talk to an ENT specialist in Athens.