For many, wheezing and watery eyes are irritations not only reckoned with in the autumn and spring but also in winter. Actually, those with indoor allergies, such as to pet dander, dust mites, mold, and/or smoke, may suffer more in wintertime, in areas where temperature drops mean spending more time inside. Symptoms of allergies can be similar to those of cold and flu, so know how to tell the difference and how to minimize indoor allergens.

Cold Vs. Allergies

The main difference between an allergy flare-up and a cold or the flu is that the latter tend to be accompanied by a fever as well as aches, coughs, fatigue, and sore throats. Allergies, on the other hand, tend to result in itchy, red, irritated eyes, runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes. Colds and the flu also tend to be more short-lived, lasting about seven to 10 days, whereas allergies can linger for weeks or months.

Steps to reduce winter allergies, some of which were recently recommended by the Allergy Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center:

  • Wash linens in hot water (at least 130 degrees) to eradicate dust mites.
  • Search for mold and discard any shower curtains, wallpaper, towels that look or smell of it.
  • Keep humidity levels in your home to 40 percent by using humidifiers or air conditioners.
  • Wash areas prone to mold, such as shower curtains, with a cleanser containing  five percent bleach.
  • Place high-efficiency filters in your furnace; change filters regularly as indicated by the instructions.
  • Vacuum weekly and (try a HEPA variety vacuum) in your home to remove dust mites and pet allergens.
  • Use allergy-proof coverings for your bedding.
  • Dust using an oiled rag instead of a dry rag.
  • Consider replacing dust-mite-attracting bedroom  carpeting with tile, linoleum, vinyl or wood flooring.
  • Ensure that your furnace fan is always on.
  • Reduce clutter.
  • Use a HEPA air filter.

If symptoms persist past one week, make an appointment to see your doctor, who can help determine whether you are experiencing cold, the flu, or indoor allergies. If you are experiencing an allergic reaction, your doctor can refer you to an allergy specialist who can order a skin test or a blood test to help identify the allergen so you will then be able to better avoid triggers in future.

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How have You managed winter allergens this year?