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Winter Allergic Asthma Challenges

Dealing with Seasonal Allergic Asthma

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Updated: September 5, 2008

You may not think of winter as being a season for allergic asthma, but it all depends on what your particular allergy and asthma triggers are. There are definitely certain allergens, as well as irritants, that are more likely to present problems during the winter months, when colder weather forces you to be cooped up indoors for more hours each day. And, before you know it, you're dealing with sneezing, wheezing and coughing once again.

Common winter allergy and asthma symptoms can include:

Kids with allergic asthma may also have what is known as the allergic salute, where they rub their noses upward because of itching and have allergic shiners, which are dark circles under the eyes caused by nasal congestion. These are all just the typical symptoms of winter allergy and asthma sufferers.

Common Winter Allergens and Irritants

Allergic asthma symptoms can come and go at any time of the year. Winter presents some unique challenges, in that both indoor and outdoor triggers can set off symptoms. Being indoors so much exposes you to substances that you may not notice so much when you're splitting your time between the indoors and outdoors during the other seasons. Plus, turning on the furnace can stir up dust, pollen and other allergens from filters, vents and carpets.

Some common indoor allergens that are especially active in the winter are:

In addition, there may be some triggers that are known as irritants that are more likely to be encountered in the winter. Irritants don't produce the allergic reaction that allergens do, but they do further irritate already inflamed airways in people with allergic asthma.

The most common irritants during the winter months would be:

It's also important to note that if you live in an area that never really gets that cold, such as Florida or other southern United States, outdoor allergens, such as pollen and molds, may never really go away completely, triggering symptoms year-round.

Influencing Factors

Most indoor triggers are affected more by the cleanliness of the indoor environment than anything else. It's almost impossible to ever get rid of indoor allergens entirely but keeping a clean home does help. Winter weather will vary greatly from region to region, but if you live in a place where winters are cold, then cold, windy air can be a frequent irritant whenever you leave the home.

Cold weather may also mean more wood fires and smoke to irritate your airways. In certain areas too, such as the mountain west in the United States, temperature inversions can cause smoke and pollution to lie like a blanket over the lower atmosphere for days at a time. In more temperate climates, winter may bring lots of rainy damp weather, which can mean higher levels of mold spores.

How Winter Allergies and Asthma Are Diagnosed

If you notice that your allergic asthma symptoms crop up — or worsen — during the winter months, there's a good chance that you have winter allergies. To find out for sure, make an appointment to see your doctor. Your doctor may decide to refer you to an allergist, who can do formal allergy testing to find out exactly what triggers you may be reacting to.

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