Did you wake up this morning with a runny or stuffy nose? Have you had sinus congestion, sneezing or wheezing since last fall? The kids get blamed for bringing home a constant stream of colds from school or daycare but the real culprit may be allergies; not colds.
Winter Cold or Winter Allergies?
It’s easy to think that you’ve got a nasty cold that you just can’t shake. The symptoms of winter colds and winter allergies can be very similar; making it hard to tell the difference. So how do you know?
Fever. The first tell-tale sign is an elevated temperature. Grab the thermometer or temperature scanner and take a reading. A cold will cause a very mild fever. The flu will cause a high fever. Allergies will never cause a fever. Got a fever? Then you don’t have allergies. If you don’t have a fever, then you may have allergies.
Symptom Onset. Another difference between winter allergies and winter colds is the on-set of symptoms. Allergy and flu symptoms come on suddenly. One minute you are fine and within an hour you are not. Cold symptoms come on over the course of several days.
Duration. The duration of symptoms is different between colds, allergies and the flu. A winter cold will last anywhere from 7 to 10 days, whether you treat symptoms or not. After that period of time, your symptoms are on the run. The symptoms of the flu last longer and even after the fever and sore throat are gone you can feel weak for weeks. Allergy symptoms will not go away until you remove the offending allergen or stop the action of the histamines and leukotrienes. If you’ve had symptoms for weeks, it is probably allergies.
Common Winter Allergens
People think allergies and they think spring or fall hayfever. It’s true that plants are the major source of outdoor allergens in the warmer months, but indoor allergens are the real culprits in winter. Doors and windows are closed, reducing fresh air and increasing allergen levels.
Dust Mites. Dust mites are the prime source of indoor allergens. They are microscopic insects related to spiders. They feed off shed skin cells and their body and feces contain highly potent allergens. Dust mites live where it is dark and warm. They love spaces filled with fibers that hold food and moisture as well as providing hiding spaces. This describes your bed and bedding perfectly. In addition, their allergens collect in rugs, carpets and upholstered furniture.
Molds. Mold can be a real problem in the winter. Basements, cellars and crawlspaces provide the moisture, food and darkness that mold loves. To add insult to injury, many heating systems are located in these mold filled areas and an improperly fitted filter can allow mold to be drawn into the system and spread throughout the house. An often-overlooked source of mold is the humidifier. If you use humidifiers to make dry, heated air more comfortable the machines can be a literal hotspot for mold colonies.
Pet Dander. Household pets spend more time indoors in the winter months. You may not realize you are allergic to your pets if they spend most of their time outside in warmer weather. Once it gets chilly and kitty comes in and sits with you on the couch your exposure level increases. Not only are you more exposed to the pet, but the pet is spreading allergens throughout the house. Pet allergies are caused by a protein in the saliva and urine and each time the pet grooms, empties its bladder or gives you a “kiss” it is spreading this protein. The more time you spend in close contact with your pet in a closed environment the more likely you are to have allergy symptoms.
Keep Winter Allergies in Check
Control your winter allergies by controlling the allergens in your house. It’s not hard, just change up your cleaning routine. You may find that lingering cold was allergies all along.
Check the Bedroom. Start with the bedroom. Make sure you wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets in 140° water each week. Can’t get water that hot or don’t want to cook your linens? Wash with De-Mite Laundry Additive to get rid of dust mites from bed linens. Make sure your duvet, mattress, and pillows are encased in dust mite proof covers. These zippered covers trap in allergens so you get a good night’s sleep.
Check the Basement. Add fans to the basement or cellar to increase air circulation. Spray Vital Oxide to kill mold and mildew and keep musty odors in check. Make sure your heater filter fits properly so that air does not leak around the filter. Check that heater plenum area is well sealed as well.
Check Furnishings. If you’ve got a good HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner, use it more often to remove pet allergens, mold spores, and dust mite allergens from carpets and upholstered furniture. If your vacuum doesn’t have a HEPA filter or if you have a bagless vacuum, then don’t vacuum as often. A bad vacuum just makes the indoor environment worse.
Use anti-allergen sprays like ADMS Dust Mite Spray on rugs, carpets, draperies and upholstered furniture. These anti-allergen sprays will break down the allergy causing proteins from dust mites, molds, and pets that collect on any surface you can’t wash in hot water. It won’t stain and doesn’t contain any dye, fragrance or masking fragrance so it won’t pollute your indoor air.
Don’t forget to clean humidifiers at least weekly to remove bacteria and molds. A rinse with an antimicrobial can help keep mold at bay.
Check Pets. Safely remove allergens from pets by wiping them down weekly with an Allerpet solution. Allerpet cleanses and conditions the coat as it safely denatures the allergens. Your pet will look better and you will breathe better.
Control your winter allergies by controlling the allergens in your home and office by using the right allergy relief products. You may find that lingering cold was allergies all along and your kids had nothing to do with it.
Wishing you the best of health.
PS – Get your free copy of Cheryl’s book “You Can Do It! Allergy Free Living”. Click here to download.