First I get a runny nose. Then my eyes start itching and watering. Finally, the sneezing begins – and I’m left wondering if I’ve caught my son’s cold or if I’m struggling with winter allergies.
It’s a common question, according to Dr. Michelle Weiss of the Family Center for Allergy and Asthma. “Many of the symptoms of a cold and allergies overlap, making it difficult for most people to know the difference,” she said. “People ask me about it each winter.”
Both a cold and allergies can result in watering eyes, a cough, shortness of breath and a runny nose. But a cold will commonly come with a fever, while allergies never do. A cold usually lasts from seven to ten days, while winter allergies usually last for the entire season. If you’re still unsure, ask about your family’s history – if one or both your parents suffer from allergies, there’s a good chance that you’ll be an allergy sufferer, too.
Just because you’ve never had allergies before doesn’t mean you can’t have them now. Weiss says many first-time allergy patients she sees are in their 20s and 30s. This is because people can be exposed to allergens all their lives but it usually takes time to stimulate an allergic reaction.
Most people with winter allergies have allergies year-round, Weiss says. “It usually gets worse [during the winter] because we’re inside more and there’s not a lot of ventilation to help with clearing the air,” she said.
Weiss says a clean environment is one of the easiest ways to provide allergy relief, especially in the bedroom. That’s because we spend eight to 10 hours a night in our bedrooms, so we’re exposed to the allergens there more than anywhere else.
If you’re allergic to pet dander, don’t allow your dog or cat to sleep on your bed, even if they help to keep you warm on winter nights. You may want to kick them out of the bedroom altogether to ensure night time allergy relief.
Consider a washable mattress protector to get rid of dust mites, and change your mattress at least once every eight years. You may also want to wash your bed sheets twice a week if you suspect you have an allergy to dust mites, who feed on the skin and hair cells we shed while sleeping.
Dehumidifiers can help control the production of mold, and bleach products work well to remove mold and mildew.
This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of The Joint Corp (or its franchisees and affiliates). You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.