Health Topics

The forgotten allergy season: Winter


November 10, 2015

Learn the causes of winter allergies here in Tennessee

When we sniffle in December or January, we tend to think we’re getting a cold, but the cause is often winter allergies. Tennesseans tend to associate allergies with spring when trees blossom, late summer when ragweed pollinates and autumn when leaves decay. But allergy and asthma sufferers, especially those in the South, might feel stuffy year-round.

More time indoors during cooler weather might provide a reprieve from outdoor allergies, but indoor allergies can flare. Southerners experience a double whammy. Without a hard frost to kill off leaf mold and spores, outdoor allergens can flourish. And those intermittently warm winter days can make things even worse. If you find yourself reaching for the antihistamines and tissues, check out these common causes of winter allergies, and make a few tweaks to help ease the sneezes.

The M-words

In the winter, mold and mildew can be a source of both indoor and outdoor allergies. Bag leaves early. (Allergy sufferers should wear a dust mask.) We open windows less often in winter, trapping damp air inside. Run fans when showering to extract steam, and run a dehumidifier to keep humidity below 50 percent.

When the heat is on

HVAC units get a workout in winter, and they can recirculate allergens. Shell out extra cash on high-end filters that trap dust and dander, and change them regularly according to the manufacturer recommendation. Smoke from wood-burning fireplaces and the indoor pollution from gas units can wreak havoc on respiratory systems as well. Use them sparingly.

Is Fluffy making you runny?

Pets are indoors with us more during the cooler months. Even if you are not allergic to your pets’ dander, allergens from outside can hitch a ride on their fur. Frequent brushing or grooming can help, as can regular house cleanings. Wash your hands after petting Fido, especially before touching your face.

Mind the mites

We use more bedding in winter, a haven for dust mites. Wash blankets and sheets weekly in hot water and buy protective covers for your pillows. If you have carpeting, consider replacing it with flooring that can be mopped.

Are you allergic to the holidays?

The holidays might naturally leave you exhausted, but if you’re feeling under the weather during December, wreathes, garlands and Christmas trees might be to blame.


Not sure if allergies are to blame for your nagging sickness? Our Stress Less infographic shares some stress management tips to help keep you in tiptop shape this holiday season.

Vanderbilt Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program is offers total care for asthma, allergy or sinus problems, including testing, treatment, resolution and management. Call 615-936-2727 for an appointment.