Nasal congestion, a runny nose, and nasal irritation is common during the winter season. We spend more time indoors during the winter, and are more susceptible to winter allergies. Common indoor allergy triggers include dust mites, mold, and pets. Symptoms of allergies include a runny nose(clear, thin mucous), sneezing, itchy eyes and nose, watery eyes, cough, and dark circles under the eyes. Symptoms from a cold will usually last for 10 days, while allergy symptoms linger for weeks or months.
Treatment for winter allergies usually starts with an antihistamine such as Claritin or Zyrtec. Decongestants such as Sudafed will relieve congestion and pressure, but may be contraindicated if there is a history of heart disease or hypertension. Nasal steroid sprays, such as Flonase or Nasacort, may be helpful, but should be used consistently to be beneficial. Additional strategies for treating winter allergies include eliminating sources of mold, using allergy-proof covers on bedding, and using a HEPA air filter in the bedroom. For those who continue to have symptoms, immunotherapy(allergy shots) may be necessary.
Winter nasal congestion may not be caused by allergies, but rather the dry, cold air associated with the winter season. In this case, increasing humidification is beneficial. Using a humidifier in the bedroom, saline nasal sprays during the day, and placing a dab of vaseline just inside the nostrils at bedtime will counter the dryness and irritation of winter rhinitis.