Winter Allergies

H. Farhadian, M.D., F.A.A.P., F.A.A.A.A.I.
Copyright© 2019, H. Farhadian, MD. All rights reserved.

After pollination of the weeds in fall that are major offending factors, winter arrives. During the cold and rainy season, the pollens are reduced. Therefore, the typical allergic symptoms such as attack of sneezing, runny nose, and itching of the eyes are subsided. However, we cannot underestimate the effect of cold air on the upper and lower respiratory tract in allergic patients.

The cold air could directly stimulate the nerve endings, which exist in the nose, sinuses, and lungs. This stimulation results in symptoms similar to allergies such as sneezing, wheezing, and nasal congestion.

On the other hand, during the winter there are plenty of viruses in the environment, which causes common cold symptoms and complications. Symptoms of the common cold, such as sneezing, nasal stuffiness, and nasal discharge are similar to hay fever.

In common colds, symptoms usually improve within five to ten days, but in nasal allergy symptoms might continue for weeks or even months.

Sinusitis is one of the most common complications of rhinitis. There are two types of sinusitis, acute and chronic.

In acute sinusitis that usually follows the common cold, the patient suffers from fever, face pain, eye ache, toothache, redness of the nose and eyes, stuffy nose, profuse nasal discharge, post nasal drip, and sore throat.

Chronic sinusitis, however is the result of untreated or inappropriately treated nasal allergy. In this type, the patient does not usually have a fever or has a slight fever. Although face pain is mild or nonexistent, the patient might complain of chronic headaches. Nasal congestion is also more mild and is usually associated with discolors nasal discharge, postnasal drip, persistent sore throat, and bad breath. Unfortunately, the incidence of this condition has increased in the past several years.

Cold and dry air also irritate asthmatics during winter months. They become more susceptible to bronchitis and pneumonia, in which case, fever is added to the other symptoms.

As a result of the cold season, patients stay indoors. Therefore, they receive less fresh air and are exposed to more indoor pollutants. The indoor contaminants include smoke, house dust, pet hair and danders, aerosols, and smoke from wooden stoves.

For treatment of winter allergy and asthma, the best approach is prevention. The following measures are recommended:

A) Keep animals outdoor if possible and wash them once a week.

B) Keep the house dust-free as much as possible. Vacuum the carpet once or twice a week. A good vacuum cleaner with a HEPA-FILTER is beneficial. The curtains and shades must be free of dust. Eliminate feather pillows and remove plush toys from children’s bedroom.

C) Smoking should absolutely be avoided.