Patients with hay fever commonly prepare in advance for spring and summer symptoms such as sneezing, an itchy nose, and itchy eyes as allergy season starts. However, some people get these symptoms in the winter or all year long, and they’re easily mistaken for the common cold or the flu.
Understanding hay fever
The name hay fever is a misnomer. The condition doesn’t cause a fever and isn’t due to an allergy to hay. Medically known as allergic rhinitis, hay fever causes a host of symptoms that can make you feel miserable. If you have hay fever, you may experience:
- A runny nose
- Stuffy nose
- Itchy nose
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Sore and scratchy throat
- Frequent headaches
- Nasal congestion
- Postnasal drip
Here at Riviera Allergy Medical Center, allergy and immunology specialist Dr. Ulrike Ziegner routinely creates treatment plans to help patients manage these symptoms.
Allergic rhinitis symptoms in winter
Patients with allergic rhinitis have an immune system that reacts to substances in the air. Pollen is the most common cause of allergic rhinitis. Patients experience symptoms when pollen levels peak in the spring and summer. However, pollen isn’t the only allergen that can trigger symptoms. Other airborne substances that can cause hay fever are:
- Pet dander
- Dust mites
If you have allergic rhinitis, the body releases substances involved in the inflammatory process, including histamine. These substances are responsible for the symptoms you experience.
Because allergy symptoms are commonly associated with spring and summer season, some patients don’t expect to have symptoms in the fall and winter and may easily pass them off as a winter cold.
If you have allergic rhinitis in the winter, it means you’re allergic to an airborne substance. Out of the three common indoor allergens discussed here, dust mites are the most common culprit.
Evaluation can get to the root of things
Dr. Ziegner is specially trained to distinguish a common cold from allergic rhinitis. She asks questions about your symptoms and medical history and then performs appropriate exams and tests to get to the root of your problem.
An allergy skin test can help determine exactly what you’re allergic to. This test involves pricking your skin with small, concentrated amounts of allergens and observing for a reaction. A positive skin prick test to a specific allergen helps Dr. Ziegner diagnose allergies. She may order blood tests to identify antibodies in your blood to confirm the diagnosis.
Can winter hay fever be prevented?
Allergic rhinitis can have a significant impact on your life. Reducing symptoms and getting relief is a top priority. Dr. Ziegner offers customized treatment options. In addition to treatment, patients can take steps to reduce their exposure to substances they’re allergic to including:
- Using an air purifier
- Using dust mite covers
- Vacuuming regularly
- Removing rugs that harbor allergens
- Washing hands after petting animals
Immunotherapy is a treatment that gradually retrains your immune system by exposing it to small amounts of the allergen. Over time, the immune system learns that the substance is harmless and doesn’t react. Immunotherapy is a comprehensive treatment that requires time and persistence. Dr. Ziegner can discuss whether this treatment is appropriate for your situation.
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffer from allergies, relief is within reach. For diagnosis and management of allergic conditions, call our Redondo Beach, California, office or request your appointment online. You can also send a message to Dr. Ziegner and her team here on our website.