Winter Allergies
Causes, Symptoms, and Testing 

As the temperature drops and the air becomes brisk, the whimsy of the winter season has arrived. For those who believe they suffer from winter allergies, yes they are a thing, the frosty season can bring a range of less-than-desirable allergy symptoms.

What Causes Winter Allergies?

Contrary to popular belief, allergies are not exclusive to warmer months. Often called perennial allergies, year-round allergies, or indoor allergies, the main difference between winter and other seasonal allergies is pollen—or lack thereof. When temperatures dip, we spend more time inside where it’s warm and cozy. That means we are closer to common indoor allergens, including animal dander, dust mites, rodents, and mold.

You have to first be exposed to these indoor allergens to become allergic to them.1,2 If an allergy develops, your body will produce IgE antibodies as an immune response, because it thinks the allergen is an invader, causing allergy symptoms.1

Animal Dandar

Dog and cat dander are year-round allergen triggers that are common offenders when it comes to winter allergies. The chilly temps mean more time inside with the doors and windows shut and reduced air circulation. This can mean more concentrated dander floating in the air made up of tiny particles of skin, hair, or feathers shed by animals.3

Dust Mites

Dust mites are microscopic organisms that thrive in warm and humid environments. They are big fans of homes in winter months because indoor humidity tends to be higher. Don’t stress though—these mites don't bite humans.4 They only trigger allergic symptoms in those that are sensitized.


Just as people prefer the warmth of the indoors during colder months, so do uninvited whiskered visitors. As mice gravitate to the coziness of indoor spaces, this can mean a greater chance of exposure to the allergens they carry that can become airborne via their urine, feces, or saliva.


During the colder months, indoor humidity levels tend to rise, creating an environment favorable to mold growth. Mold releases spores into the air that can trigger allergic reactions in those sensitized to them.


Allergies vs. a Cold: Which One Are You Fighting?

Because symptoms can kick up during the cold and flu season, it’s not always easy to determine the cause of wintertime sniffles. Check out this helpful article to learn more about the differences between allergies and a cold.

Winter Allergy Symptoms

When it comes to winter allergies, symptoms can range from mild to severe. You'll usually feel these symptoms indoors, and they can be similar to what you'd experience at other times of the year.

Common winter allergy signs and symptoms include:

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

Winter Allergy Testing and Management

If you want to find relief from winter allergies, it’s important to get tested and determine what’s causing your symptoms to inform an effective management plan.

How Do You Get Tested for Winter Allergies?

You don’t need to wait for an appointment with a specialist to get tested! Talk to your healthcare provider about specific IgE blood testing, which measures the amount of allergen-specific antibodies (IgE) in your blood. Depending on the levels of different antibodies, the results can help you understand the potential cause of your symptoms.

doctor talking to patient
mother and daughter gardening

Tips to Help Manage Winter Allergies

Allergy symptoms don’t need to dull the sparkle of your winter season. Work together with your healthcare provider to devise strategies to avoid your winter allergy triggers:

  • Toss shower curtains, wallpaper, and carpeting that have mold.
  • Wash showers and sinks with a solution containing 5% bleach and a little detergent.
  • To help control dust mites and mold, use a dehumidifier to keep humidity in your home below 50%.
  • Use a HEPA air filter to help remove allergens from the air.
  • Wash bedding in hot water (130F/54C) each week.
  • Use allergy-proof covers on mattresses, pillows, and comforters.
  • Keep pets out of bedrooms and off furniture to reduce pet dander exposure.
  • Opt for an artificial holiday tree to avoid potential allergies triggered by tree, pollen, or mold.
For more in-depth exposure reduction tips for each type of allergy, check out these Allergen Fact Sheets.
mother and daughter gardening

Winter Allergies Can Be Managed

With the swirl of the winter and holiday season, it can seem easy enough to take antihistamines or cold medication as a quick fix for your symptoms, but they may not always be the best option if you haven’t confirmed what is triggering them.

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In fact, in one study, 65% of people with allergy symptoms who used antihistamines were not allergic, meaning they may be wasting money and time trying to find relief.5

Speak to your healthcare provider about getting specific IgE blood testing to gain clarity into what is causing allergy-like symptoms in winter and optimize your search for relief.

Resources for healthcare providers

Specific IgE testing for winter allergies

Healthcare providers, click below, to learn more about how specific IgE blood testing can help in diagnosing seasonal allergies.

Practice parameters and guidelines

View practice parameters and guidelines for allergic rhinitis you may see in patients during the winter allergy season.

Girl with inhaler with father and hcp

Allergen Encyclopedia

Explore our allergen encyclopedia, an easily shareable, patient-friendly resource that includes information on which pollen might be causing seasonal allergies as well as how they may impact food allergies and influence patient management plans.

  1. Yoo Y, Perzanowski MS. Allergic sensitization and the environment: latest update. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2014 Oct;14(10):465.
  2. Cox L, Williams B, Sicherer S, Oppenheimer J, Sher L, Hamilton R, Golden D; American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Test Task Force; American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Specific IgE Test Task Force. Pearls and pitfalls of allergy diagnostic testing: report from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology/American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Specific IgE Test Task Force. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2008 Dec;101(6):580-92.
  3. Schoos AM, Nwaru BI, Borres MP. Component-resolved diagnostics in pet allergy: Current perspectives and future directions.  J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2021 Apr;147(4):1164-1173.
  4. Accessed April 2024.
  5. Szeinbach SL, Williams B, Muntendam P, O'Connor RD. Identification of allergic disease among users of antihistamines. J Manag Care Pharm. 2004 May-Jun;10(3):234-8.