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Is your allergy worsening this cold season? An allergist explains why

By Camille Santiago Published Jan 19, 2021 9:54 am Updated Jan 22, 2021 8:29 am

For those of us who live in a tropical country, the occasional 20-something degree weather, which is already considered “cold,” can be a love-hate relationship. The longer days and a weather that allows us to bundle up in our knits follows a whole host of skin problems (*ahem cracked lips and wrinkles*). And for some, any sort of exposure to the cold air could trigger asthma and rhinitis.

Why is this so? Seasonal and environmental changes can have an effect on allergens including molds, dust mites, and pollens—the fine, powdery substance produced by trees, flowers, grasses, and weeds during germination—which, if you’re allergic to, could lead to those symptoms mentioned above.

Is it really an allergy?

Dr. Lara Theresa Alentajan-Aleta, an immunologist, allergologist and a professor at UP-PGH, suggests that you should first make sure it’s an allergy.

Allergies, she says, follows a pattern. “Allergies would [be] present almost on a daily basis, almost around the same time of the day, and it's more chronic.” 

Aside from dry skin and allergic rhinitis, or more commonly known as hay fever, some symptoms would include watery or itchy eyes, runny nose, rashes, hives, itchy throat, and aggravated asthma.

Know your triggers

As mentioned, allergies follow a pattern. Observe your allergic reactions. Do you sneeze a lot when indoors? Do your eyes get watery when outside? 

One factor could be humidity, as it affects the biology of a number of allergens. “If the condition is cold, dark, and damp, and if the humidity is high, then your allergies can flare up if you’re allergic to molds,” says Dr. Aleta. 

Meanwhile, when it’s hot and humid, then dust mites grow in number. But “[if] it’s not the dust mites, there are some triggers why the cold season can trigger allergies. If your room is not well ventilated, and it's also humid even if it is cold, then dust mites may also be a trigger,” she explains.

Prevention is key

Once you know your triggers, stay away from it—or at least try to. 

“If it's pollen, we tell our patients to stay indoors. If it's an indoor allergen, we advise the patient to open the windows, so that the indoor allergen doesn’t get concentrated.” 

Or if the cold weather is just making your skin itch and dry, Dr. Aleta says to bundle up so your skin doesn’t react much to the temperature. She also advises her patients to “apply a lot of emollients, keep the skin moist so it doesn't become prone to breakage.” 

So, it’s about time to bring out your moisturizers, body lotions, creams, oils, and of course, jug of water!

Antihistamines are your best friend… but ask your doctor first!

As we know, our bodies produce chemicals called histamines when you come across your allergy trigger. And so, we take antihistamines to reduce histamines. “It (antihistamine) can help alleviate the itch, whether it’s itchiness of the nose or itchiness of the skin.” 

The options are there for every need—there are short-acting, long-acting, and non-sedating, and sedating kind. “They are generally safe, but it's best to consult your doctor to find out the best antihistamine for you kasi the effects of antihistamine can affect one’s work, for example,” Dr. Aleta warns.

Other tips to keep allergens at bay

Clean your space regularly. Molds can be removed using cleaning agents such as disinfectant sprays, vinegar, or chlorine. 

Lessen the humidity. If you’re allergic to dust mites, Dr. Aleta says to lessen the humidity. While it is difficult to do so in a tropical country like the Philippines, using an air conditioner or a dehumidifier may help.

When in doubt, place it under the sun. Dr. Aleta also says that the best way to kill dust mites is by exposing your mattresses, pillows, sofas, and the like to dry heat aka under the sun. “You can just expose them to the sun or you can iron your mattress or your pillows or we advise our patients who have stuffed toys that they cannot live without, they can wash their stuff toys regularly and then pour boiling water on it to kill dust mites.” Or, if you want, ironing is the easiest way apply dry heat on your mattress.

Use protection. If you can’t kill ‘em, put a barrier between you and the dust mites. Use a hypoallergenic pillow and mattress protector, says Dr. Aleta. “Any other cover is not effective because the dust mite is really very small, so it goes through the weave of your mattress covers.”