Fix your winter allergies and feel better today!

Winter allergy symptoms are tough. This article helps you fix it
It’s time you fixed your winter allergy symptoms!

A choose your own adventure approach to winter allergies

Do You Have Winter Allergies?

If so, you probably find it UNFAIR that your friends with seasonal allergies feel better in the winter while you continue to suffer. What’s worse, the treatments that help your friend’s allergy symptoms don’t seem to help your winter allergies!
It’s not that you want your friends to suffer with you… you’re not a monster… but YOU are the hero of this story and you deserve to feel better too!

Winter allergies are unfair! Your symptoms should get better during this time of year, right?!

Don’t worry. This post helps you fix your symptoms and will get you feeling better!

First, let me tell you: you’re right, it IS unfair.

And today’s journey will get you feeling better and FIX your winter allergies!

What Causes Your Winter Allergy Symptoms?

The biggest problem with winter allergies is that there are many different causes. And each cause has a different treatment.

Because of this, our first step is to figure out the cause of YOUR winter allergies.

We will go through each one step-by-step, and I recommend you start at the beginning.  But if you want to jump ahead, here is list of what we will cover:

  1. Winter Allergy Cause #1 – Irritant Rhinitis
  2. Winter Allergy Cause #2 – Dust Mite Allergy
  3. Winter Allergy Cause #3 – Pet Dander Allergy
  4. Winter Allergy Cause #4 – Chronic Sinusitis
  5. Winter Allergy Cause #5 – Other Causes

 

Winter Allergy Cause #1 – Irritant Rhinitis

The most common cause of winter allergies is irritant rhinitis.

In my prior article I reviewed the difference between allergic and irritant rhinitis. I think it is a good overview for you to read.

But as a TL;DR summary: an irritant trigger does NOT activate the immune system the same way as an allergic trigger does. This means that medications designed to treat allergic rhinitis DO NOT help with irritant rhinitis.

Maybe your winter allergies are bad because they are actually an irritant rhinitis!

Read through this list of symptoms and triggers and see if it sounds like you.

Irritant rhinitis symptoms

If irritant rhinitis is causing your winter allergies, your symptoms should be:

  • You get a stuffy or runny nose, but don’t have bad eye symptoms
  • Triggers such as these cause your symptoms:
    • Cold or dry air
    • Temperature changes
    • Blowing wind / blowing dust
    • Strong smells or odors
    • Strong perfumes
    • Smoke (cigarette smoke, fireplace smoke, etc)
  • You are bothered by these triggers when other people aren’t
  • You might describe yourself as having a ‘really sensitive nose’

Do you have irritant rhinitis?

Did the above section describe you and your symptoms? If so, irritant rhinitis is likely the cause of your winter allergy symptoms. Skip ahead to the customized irritant rhinitis treatment portion of the article and start feeling better!

If this section doesn’t describe your you, your adventure continues to the next section.

Dust mites causing winter allergy symptoms
Could dust mites be causing your winter allergies?

Winter Allergy Cause #2 – Dust Mites

The second most common cause of winter allergies are dust mites.

Dust mites cause year-round symptoms which worsen in the winter (because we spend more time indoors where there are more dust mites). Note that dust mites are NOT the same as bed bugs and are NOT the same as dirt/debris that we clean when we ‘dust.’

I have an entire post scheduled on dust mite allergies, but until then you can read about them here.

Correctly identifying winter allergies caused by dust mites is important because there are simple, NON-MEDICINE treatments available that can fix dust mite allergies.

Could your winter allergy symptoms be caused by dust mites?

Look over the symptoms below and see if they sound like what you are experiencing.

Dust mite allergy symptoms

Winter allergies due to dust mites often have these symptoms:

  • You get a stuffy/runny nose but also get itchy/red/watery eyes
  • Your symptoms seem to be worse first thing in the morning
  • You might feel worse after lying down on a fabric couch or on carpets
  • You might also notice that your eczema or asthma get worse at the same time
  • You have had a prior allergy test showing dust mite allergies

Does it sound like you have dust mite allergies?

If this past section sounds like it was written about you, then dust mites could be causing your winter allergies.

Jump ahead to the customized dust mite treatment section below and start feeling better.

If the dust mite allergy symptoms doesn’t describe YOUR winter allergies, then just keep reading (ok, this is now becoming an annoying choose your own adventure novel)!

Are you enjoying this article?  Why not like me on Facebook and get more like this every week:

 

Winter Allergy Cause #3 – Pet Dander

Pet dander is an under-appreciated cause of winter allergies.

Pet allergies are a problem you usually already know you have (even if you are avoiding that fact). And if you have pet allergies, you have probably just dealt with it.

But pet allergies often become WORSE in the winter for a few reasons:

  • We spend more time indoors
  • Pets spend more time indoors
  • We turn on heaters, which circulates pet dander

Even if you don’t own pets, pet allergies might STILL be a cause of your winter allergies because of your friends/family who own pets (especially my house, which has 4 cats, 1 dog and 3 chickens). Their houses have higher pet dander concentrations during the winter (so maybe your friend really IS out to get you!)

Pet dander allergy symptoms

If pet allergies are the cause of your winter allergies then these symptoms may sound familiar:

  • You have a known history of pets causing symptoms (even mild symptoms)
  • You have a pet who causes “mild symptoms” but you usually deal with it
  • You have winter allergy symptoms at friends’ houses who have pets
  • You have a prior allergy test showing dog or cat positive

 

pets causing winter allergy symptoms
Are pets causing your winter allergy symptoms

Does it sound like you have pet dander allergies?

If this sounds like you then you probably already know you have pet allergies. But now you ALSO know how even mild pet allergies can worsen and cause your winter allergies. Jump down to the customized pet allergy treatment area and receive your treatment plan.

If this doesn’t sound like you, scroll down and read the next section.

 

Winter Allergy Cause #4 – Chronic Sinusitis

Chronic sinusitis is the final common cause of winter allergies and is often a missed diagnosis. Chronic sinusitis is such a missed diagnosis I have written an entire blog series on it (coming out soon, but you can request a rough draft here).

I recommend you read that post.

But I know you’re busy. Places to go, people to see, Netflix to binge. And you’ve already read through 3 sections that haven’t described your winter allergy symptoms.

So, as a summary, I have listed the symptoms of chronic sinusitis. Read through them and see if any sound like you.

Chronic sinusitis symptoms

There are four main chronic sinusitis symptoms:

  • You have nasal congestion
  • You have mucus in your nose or down your throat (usually thick white or thick yellow)
  • You have face pain, sinus pain, sinus pressure, or sinus headaches
  • You have a decrease or change in smell

How many of these symptoms sound like you?

To diagnose chronic sinusitis, you only need TWO of these four symptoms. If you are unsure, please read this post for a more thorough discussion.

Does it sound like you have chronic sinusitis?

If you read down the list and chronic sinusitis sounds like you, then you’re not alone.

So far, about 20% of the people who have emailed me for help through MyAllergyFriend have had a chronic sinusitis causing their symptoms!

If you suspect you have a chronic sinusitis triggering your winter allergies, jump ahead to the customized chronic sinusitis treatment section and figure out how to feel better.

If not, then there is only one path left in your quest to fix your winter allergies.

 

What is causing your winter allergies?
If nothing sounded like you, that’s ok. You’re unique. Just fill out the “other” section and I’ll help you

Winter Allergy Cause #5 – Other

If you have read through the four most common causes and NONE of them sounded like you… don’t worry. Although those are the most common causes, they are not the ONLY causes.

But to help you at this point, I need you to email me and tell me about your symptoms.

It’s ok if it is vague, because I will review it and ask you more specific questions so that we, together, can figure out the cause of your winter allergy symptoms. Jump ahead and fill out the “other” form to get you treatment for your unique cause of winter allergy symptoms.

Treating Winter Allergies

Treating winter allergy symptoms
Yay! Time to get your treatment plan and FINALLY feel better!

Yay, treatment! You’ve arrived at the end of your quest and its time to get your reward!

If I did my magic right, then your plan should be below. But this is using this new “computer magic” and not the classic “eye of newt” type stuff.  If not, just click on the button below and read about the your specific winter allergy plan.

Winter Allergy Treatment Plan: Irritant Rhinitis

Step 1: Remove irritants

The first step that you should do is to start a sinus rinse.

A sinus rinse helps if irritant rhinitis is causing your winter allergies through these ways:

  • It clears any irritants bothering your nose/sinus
  • It rinses away dirt or debris in the nose/sinus
  • It removes any mucous stuck in the nose/sinus
  • It moisturizes the nose/sinus mucosa

I know that you might HATE sinus rinses. I understand… and wrote and entire article trying to help you tolerate sinus rinses.

Please read it before you decide to ignore this step.

A sinus rinse is a great way first step to help fix your winter allergies. It also helps keep your nasal mucosa healthy. And it’s NOT a medication!

I HIGHLY recommend this step (obviously, or I wouldn’t have put it as #1)

Step 2: Add a nasal steroid

The main problem in irritant rhinitis is that the irritant triggers bother the lining of the nose and sinus causing your symptoms to worsen.

A nasal steroid helps by calming down the surface of the nose and making it less “reactive” to irritant triggers.

I recommend you start a nasal steroid for step 2. I have written this post on the BEST over the counter nasal steroids but if you have any questions, please email me and I’ll be happy to help.

Step 3: Remove the cause

Now comes the good part for your irritant rhinitis treatment plan.

Steps 1 and 2 are good starting points and will help you feel better. I have no doubt about this. But we want to try and have you feel better with as few medications as possible. And to do this, we need to remove the trigger.

Since irritant rhinitis is causing your winter allergy symptoms, your best plan is:

  • Write down and identify all of the “triggers” of your nose
  • Avoid all of the irritant triggers as best as you can
  • Read this section on some tips and tricks for treating irritant rhinitis

Winter Allergy Treatment Plan: Dust Mite Allergy

Step 1: Remove any dust mite irritants

The first step that you should do is to start a sinus rinse.

A sinus rinse will help if dust mites cause your winter allergies in four ways:

  • It clears any dust mites/other irritants bothering your nose/sinus
  • It rinses away dirt or debris in the nose/sinus
  • It removes any mucous stuck in the nose/sinus
  • It moisturizes the nose/sinus mucosa

I know that you might HATE sinus rinses. I understand… and wrote and entire article trying to help you tolerate sinus rinses.

Please read it before you decide to ignore this step.

A sinus rinse is a great way first step to help fix your winter allergies. It also helps keep your nasal mucosa healthy. And it’s NOT a medication!

I HIGHLY recommend this step (obviously, or I wouldn’t have put it as #1)

Step 2: Add a nasal steroid

The main problem in dust mite allergy is the dust mites are triggering an allergic cascade of your immune system, which causes all of your nose and eye symptoms.

A nasal steroid helps calm down the surface of the nose and stops this immune cascade from happening. And as a result, it treats your symptoms!

I recommend you start a nasal steroid for step 2. I have written this post on the BEST over the counter nasal steroids but if you have any questions, please email me and I’ll be happy to help.

Step 3: Remove the cause

Now comes the good part for your dust mite treatment plan.

The first two steps WILL help you feel better. I have no doubt about this.

But I want to try and have you feel better with as few medications as possible. And to do this, we need to remove the trigger.

Since dust mites are causing your winter allergies, I recommend this plan:

  • If you haven’t gotten allergy tested, you can consider it at this time. The only way to know for sure if you have dust mite allergies is through an allergy test.
    • You have two options for allergy testing:
      • You could go see an allergist
      • You could ask your primary care to order an allergy blood test
    • Both options are equal to diagnose dust mite allergy and either one will be enough to guide your winter allergy treatment.
    • If you want, you can email me and I can tell you which test is best for you.
  • If you are positive for dust mites, buy dust mite covers like these.
    • You will need an entire set for boxspring, mattress and pillows
    • These reduce your dust mite symptoms and will help me reduce your medications.
    • I’m writing an entire post on how dust mite sheets work, but if you are curious you can ask me here.

Winter Allergy Treatment Plan: Pet Dander

Step 1: Remove irritants

The first step that you should do is to start a sinus rinse.
A sinus rinse helps if your winter allergy is caused by pet dander in these four ways:

  • It clears any pet dander/other irritants bothering your nose/sinus
  • It rinses away dirt or debris in the nose/sinus
  • It removes any mucous stuck in the nose/sinus
  • It moisturizes the nose/sinus mucosa

I know that a you might HATE sinus rinses. I understand… and wrote and entire article trying to help you tolerate sinus rinses.

Please read it before you decide to ignore this step.

A sinus rinse is a great way first step to help fix your winter allergies. It also helps keep your nasal mucosa healthy. And it’s NOT a medication!

I HIGHLY recommend this step (obviously, or I wouldn’t have put it as #1)

Step 2: Add a nasal steroid

The main problem in pet dander allergy is that it triggers an allergic cascade of your immune system, which causes all of your nose and eye symptoms.

A nasal steroid helps calm down the surface of the nose and stops this immune cascade from happening. And as a result, it treats your symptoms!

I recommend you start a nasal steroid for step 2. I have written this post on the BEST over the counter nasal steroids but if you have any questions, please email me and I’ll be happy to help.

Step 3: Remove the cause

Now comes the good part for your pet dander treatment plan.

The first two steps are great starting points and WILL help you feel better.

But we want you to feel better with as few medications as possible. And to do this, we need to remove the pet dander trigger.

Your best plan for removing pet dander triggers is:

  • If you have pets:
    • You DO NOT need to get rid of your pets.
    • Read this post on how to improve your pet dander symptoms
  • If you don’t have pets but have friends/family with pets:
    • There isn’t much you can directly do.
    • Share this post with them and maybe they can implement some of these avoidance strategies.

Step 4: Reduce your medications

If you’ve followed the above plan then you will be feeling better and will also be working to remove the triggers. That’s a flawless plan so far. Do this for at least 2-4 weeks without changing anything.

Then, once you feel that your symptoms have improved, try to reduce your medications.

I usually recommend decreasing your nasal steroid in this pattern:

  • Decrease from 2 sprays a day down to 1 spray a day.
    • Wait 2 weeks
    • If you are still controlled, move down to the next step
  • Decrease from 1 spray a day to 1 spray every OTHER day
    • Wait 2 more weeks
    • If you are still controlled, move down to the final step
  • Decrease from 1 spray every other day to 1 spray every THIRD day
    • Then stay here
    • You will need some type of “maintenance” therapy and this is probably the longest you can space it out before the benefits start to wear off.

If your winter allergy symptoms start to come back, do the same plan in reverse (I recommend increase WEEKLY so that you don’t fall further behind and more rapidly get control of your symptoms).

  • Increase from 1 spray every third day to 1 spray every other day
    • Wait a week
    • If you are still feeling winter allergy symptoms move to the next step
  • Increase from 1 spray every other day to 1 spray daily
    • Wait a week
    • If you are still having symptoms, move to the final step
  • Increase from 1 spray once a day to 2 sprays once a day

As with all my plans, if you have questions on this or any step, just email me and I’m happy to help you.

Step 5: Enjoy properly treated winter allergies!

After you have your symptoms under control, make sure you take a moment and appreciate how much better you feel!

You’ve dealt with this for a very long time and finally are feeling better!

Once spring rolls around and all your friends with typical seasonal allergies are starting to feel worse, enjoy the fact that you are still feeling great (and if you’re feeling generous, send them my way and I’ll help them feel great too).

Winter Allergy Treatment Plan: Chronic Sinusitis

Step 1: Remove bacteria and debris from your nose

The first step that you should do is to start a sinus rinse.

A sinus rinse helps if your winter allergies are caused by a chronic sinusitis is these four ways:

  • It clears any irritants bothering your nose/sinus
  • It rinses away dirt or debris in the nose/sinus
  • It removes any mucous stuck in the nose/sinus
  • It moisturizes the nose/sinus mucosa

I know that a you might HATE sinus rinses. I understand that too… and wrote and entire article trying to help you tolerate sinus rinses.

Please read it before you decide to ignore this step.

A sinus rinse is a great way first step to help fix your winter allergies. It also helps keep your nasal mucosa healthy. And it’s NOT a medication!

I highly recommend this step (obviously, or I wouldn’t have put it as #1)

Step 2: Add a nasal steroid

The main problem in chronic sinusitis is a chronic bacteria or inflammatory process in the nose.  Ultimately, you will need an antibiotic to help treat this.

But a nasal steroid helps by calming down the surface of the nose, reducing inflammation, and opening up the passages which will help make the chronic sinusitis treatment more effective.

I recommend you start a nasal steroid for step 2.  I have written this post on the BEST over the counter nasal steroids but if you have any questions, please email me and I’ll be happy to help.

Step 3: Treat the Sinusitis

Now comes the good part for treating chronic sinusitis.

Steps 1 and 2 are good starting points and will help you feel better. I have no doubt about this. But I also know that this will not fix the underlying cause.  To do this, we need to treat the chronic sinusitis.

Instead of writing the entire treatment plan here, I have linked to the article that I wrote as the definitive guide to Chronic Sinusitis (coming soon).

Winter Allergy Treatment Plan: Other

Step 1: I need more information

I would LOVE to be able to give you a more automated plan for your symptoms, but if you don’t fall into one of the above categories then I really need more information before I can appropriately recommend treatment.

If you have the time, please fill out a few questions here and I will get back to you to give you a plan as soon as I can.

Next Steps

If this article helped you, then please share it with your friends with the share links.  They will be very happy that you did when they feel better too.

And if you have any questions, feel free to email me or leave a comment (here or on my Facebook page).  Odds are, other people have the exact same question.

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