Whether you enjoy cold winter weather or tend to spend the season longing for warmer temperatures, winter brings with it many things to look forward to. Throughout the season, we have more opportunities to enjoy:
- Delicious, seasonal beverages
- Holidays and holiday parties
- Mouthwatering feasts
- Cozy nights around a warm fire
- Outdoor activities like snow skiing and ice skating
But even with all the fun accompanying winter, cold weather can also mean an increased likelihood of catching pesky viruses like common colds or the seasonal flu. Even worse, some allergy patients experience an increase in allergy symptoms once the temperatures drop.
Cold Weather Allergies
Allergies can arise throughout the winter season, causing patients to ask whether the drop in temperatures is causing their allergy symptoms or if it is something more. While it may be easy to blame your allergy symptoms on the cold weather outside, there is more to it than that. If you experience allergies, it’s because your immune system negatively responds to a trigger, usually a microscopic particle that reaches your system through the air you breathe. Cold air can contain several allergens, but it is not the cold itself causing allergies.
The most common allergy triggers patients tend to encounter in the winter include:
Dust mites are ultra-tiny arachnids, invisible to the naked eye, and can be found pretty much everywhere. And we mean everywhere. Some people believe that because dust mites only thrive where there is humidity, they cannot exist in high-elevation, dry-climate areas like Colorado or surrounding states. Unfortunately, those people are wrong. While these areas may have lower concentrations of dust mites, they are still present and able to cause frustrating allergies at any time.
Dust mites feed on dead skin cells from humans and animals. We and our pets shed skin cells all the time, which most often become trapped in things like bedding, carpets, and upholstery. Dust mites are likely to be found on or in anything that can trap the cells and hold them for a long time. Naturally, these items become breeding grounds for dust mites.
Why Do Dust Mite Allergies Increase in Cold Weather?
People allergic to dust mites usually experience allergies all year but probably notice their allergies worsen in the winter. Since bedding is where these creatures thrive the most, and people use extra bedding throughout the winter to stay warm, they increase their exposure to dust mites until temperatures rise and the extra blankets can be put away again.
Out of the thousands of mold types throughout the world, five are most common in indoor environments:
- Stachybotrys chartarum
All mold types require warmth and humidity to thrive, and each mold also grows and spreads rapidly through its spores. Indoor mold is most common in places where there is also a higher concentration of water, such as:
- Utility closets
Anywhere there could be a water leak or water issue, mold will likely grow.
Why Do Mold Allergies Increase in Cold Weather?
Mold growth can occur any time of year, and the most ideal environment for mold is a warm, moist one. Since mold is a year-long issue, you would think a mold allergy would increase in the summer when warmth and humidity levels are at their highest.
However, because we are more likely to be indoors more often throughout the winter and mold still thrives in temperatures as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the spores from an indoor mold problem can wreak havoc on a person’s immune system all season long.
If you have a mold allergy and notice your symptoms have increased throughout the winter, inspect your home to try and locate any mold growth. You may have an undiscovered moisture issue that needs to be addressed and a mold problem that should be treated.
Another common winter allergy (that can really be a year-long problem) is pet dander.
Pet dander is a combination of skin cells and proteins that come off your pet, whether it be a cat, dog, bird, guinea pig, or any other animal you may have as a furry, fluffy, or feathered companion. The animal people tend to be the most allergic to is the cat.
Some believe their pet allergies are due to the animal’s shedding fur. That’s why certain breeders and pet sellers label their non-shedding dogs or hairless cats as “hypoallergenic,” or less likely to cause allergies. They want you to believe that a lack of hair in the air means a lack of allergy symptoms for you. However, that is not the case. In fact, there is no such thing as a genuinely allergy-free animal
because people are not allergic to the hair itself but to the pet’s proteins. All animals release proteins by shedding their skin, but people can also encounter the proteins through the animal’s saliva and urine.
Why Do Pet Dander Allergies Increase in Cold Weather?
Since pets shed their skin cells and spread proteins all year, what makes allergy patients experience pet dander allergies more often throughout the cold winter? Simply put, we’re indoors more.
Pet allergy patients likely do not have indoor pets, or their pets are confined to one specific area of the house. If you have an outdoor pet, you are more likely to bring it inside during the winter so it does not suffer in the frigid temperatures all season long. And winter is the time to seek warmth inside, meaning you are spending more time inside your house or friends’ and family members’ houses who may have inside pets.
There are many reasons your exposure to pet dander may increase in the winter, and it’s mostly due to sharing more indoor space with the animals you’re likely allergic to.
If you suffer allergy symptoms in the winter, talk to the allergy specialists at Langford Allergy.
Dr. Langford and our team offer thorough allergy testing and can help determine your triggers. If our testing reveals you are allergic to common winter allergies like mold spores, pet dander, or dust mites, we will create an effective treatment plan to help you find relief from your symptoms all season (and all year). Schedule an appointment or call our office to learn more: 478-787-4728