You may think that winter means that you will have fewer allergy or asthma problems, but this is not always the case. Your allergies and asthma could get worse depending on what you are allergic to and what triggers your asthma. Here are some questions and answers about winter allergies and asthma and how you can reduce problems with both.
What Is the Difference Between Winter Allergies and Colds?
Colds and allergies share similar symptoms, and both often seem to get worse during the winter season. However, the main difference between the two is that a cold is caused by a virus and allergies are caused by the body's own immune system's reaction to a common substance. Colds generally go away within 7 to 10 days, while allergies will linger far beyond that.
Allergies get worse if you inhale, touch, or eat the substance that you are allergic to and subside when you are away from that substance. Colds aren't necessarily affected by allergens, though they can seem worse if you are suffering from allergies at the same time. Allergies almost never cause a fever while colds may cause a mild one.
Why Do Allergies and Asthma Get Worse During Winter?
During the winter, you are more likely to spend time indoors to stay warm and dry. However, this increases the chance that you will be around allergens such as dust, mold, or animal dander. During the winter, the air inside your home can become stale and stagnant and this can contribute to poor air quality and increased exposure to allergens. You may also be exposed to food allergens, such as eggs and dairy, through holiday cooking and baking.
With asthma, an increase in allergen exposure can also increase your risk of having an attack. However, many people also experience worsening symptoms when the air is cold. This is because cold air irritates your airways and causes your respiratory system to produce more mucous. Your lungs constrict the airways much in the way that they would during an allergy-related attack. This condition is often worse when you exercise outdoors because of your faster breathing.
How Can You Reduce Winter Asthma and Allergy Problems?
To avoid indoor allergens, be sure to dust your home and bathe your pets regularly. Do not eat or drink anything if you are not sure that it is free of your allergy triggers. Use a humidifier to reduce indoor-air dryness that could exacerbate allergy and asthma symptoms. Talk to your doctor about different allergy medications and treatments to alleviate symptoms.
For cold-triggered asthma, you will want to limit your activity outdoors and exercise indoors when possible. A breathable mask or scarf over your face may help reduce the chance of cold air entering your lungs, but make sure that these items do not overly-restrict your breathing. Use your inhaler before you exercise per your doctor's instructions.
When Should You Contact a Doctor?
Since severe allergies and asthma are life-threatening, you should always contact a doctor any time you cannot control your symptoms in your usual way. If you find that your medications are not effective, or you simply can't avoid your triggers, then see your doctor as soon as possible for more effective treatments or to determine a long-term resolution to the problem.
While you can't always escape allergies or asthma attacks during the winter, you can take steps to keep yourself as well as possible.
If your allergies or asthma flare up to the point that your medications aren't working, or you lose or run out of your medications, then MyHealth Urgent Care can help get your symptoms under control until you can see your doctor. Come in to one of our three southeast Michigan locations before your symptoms get worse, or give us a call if you have any questions.