Published: March 15, 2019

Can You Have Allergies in the Winter?


The short answer is "yes."

Now here’s the long answer.

When most people talk about “allergy season,” they are referring to the spring when trees and flowers are pollenating. Pollen is just one allergen, even though it tends to get the most attention. Because the increase in pollen—and thus, allergy symptoms—corresponds to a specific time of year, it can be tempting to assume that all allergies happen around the same time.

But they don’t. In fact, there are hundreds of allergens, including animals and dust mites, that aren’t tied to a season or temperature. There’s even a name for this category: year-round allergies. All those things are around pretty much all the time, including the winter. So even though pollen isn’t usually in the air when colder temperatures hit, there are other things that could trigger allergic symptoms.

Winter Allergy Symptoms

While there’s no such thing as an allergy to winter, year-round allergies can seem to increase when people start spending more time indoors and in close quarters with furry critters (welcome and unwelcome). Common symptoms for allergies to these triggers include:1

  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, wheezing
  • Watery, red, or itchy eyes
  • Skin rash or hives
  • Facial pain (from nasal congestion)

Do those symptoms sound familiar? They are very similar to cold and flu symptoms, which makes it even harder to determine whether you’re allergic to something or just sick with whatever crud is making the rounds.

What causes allergies in winter and how do I manage my symptoms?

There is no complete cure for respiratory allergies, but there are things you can do to help manage symptoms, regardless of the time of year. This includes something called exposure reduction, which is exactly what it sounds like—reducing exposure to known allergic triggers. Here are the most common year-round allergens along with exposure reduction tips:2

 Animal Dander 

  • Confine the pet to a room with a polished floor and furniture you can wipe down.
  • Restrict the animal from the bedroom and keep him or her off the furniture.
  • Use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters and vacuum cleaners.
  • Wash your pet weekly in warm water and soap.
  • Consider rehoming the pet or keeping it outdoors.

Cockroaches

  • Wash dishes.
  • Vacuum.
  • Keep food and garbage in closed containers; take out the garbage regularly.
  • Don’t store paper bags, newspapers, or cardboard boxes in your home.
  • Place bait traps or call a professional exterminator to eliminate cockroaches.
  • Seal plumbing openings, cracks, and crevices.

Dust Mites

  • Encase mattresses, pillows, and box springs in allergen-proof coverings.
  • Wash bedding weekly in 130-degree F water.
  • Vacuum and reduce clutter in the home.
  • Wear an appropriate mask while cleaning and avoid the area 20 minutes thereafter.
  • Change furnace and air conditioner filters.
  • Use a dehumidifier to reduce the humidity in your home.

Indoor Mold

  • Identify and clean moldy areas with fungicide or bleach.
  • Use a dehumidifier to reduce humidity in your home.
  • Fix water leaks.
  • Clean furnace filters, the refrigerator, and the dehumidifier (clean drip pans with bleach).
  • Thoroughly dry clothes before storing.

Rodents

  • Seal holes and cracks from the home to the outside.
  • Seal passages through interior floors, walls, the ceiling, and gaps between the bottom of cabinetry or built-in furniture and the floor.
  • Keep bushes and trees at least three feet from the home.
  • Ensure trash is stored in secure containers.
  • Store food in rodent-proof containers .     

Of course, these management techniques work best when paired with proper testing to determine the allergens you are sensitized to. Once you know your allergies, your healthcare provider can work with you to create a tailored plan to help control your symptoms and put you on the path to year-round relief.  

Tools for Understanding Allergies

 

Track allergy symptoms and prepare for a visit with a healthcare provider.

Learn about specific allergens, including common symptoms, management, and relief. 

Are you a healthcare provider? Get comprehensive information on hundreds of whole allergens and allergen components.

  1. “Pet Allergy,” American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. https://acaai.org/allergies/types/pet-allergy. Accessed February 11, 2019.
  2. Discover the connection: Reduce Exposure to Your Allergic Triggers. Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. 2018.