Updated: Sep 8
If you are experiencing what seem like pollen-induced allergies, but there is nothing alive outside - it could be a sign of a deeper issue.
Taking sinus medication all winter long is not advisable. Not only will you just be covering up symptoms, anti-histamines taken long term can lead to additional medical problems.
The real solution is to figure out why you are having allergy-like symptoms in winter and treat the underlying factors so you can be permanently symptom free.
Possible Causes Of Winter Allergy Symptoms
1. Lack Of Sunlight/Weakened Immune System
Winter itself can indirectly cause some significant allergy-like symptoms. Most people already have a vitamin D deficiency and a lack of sunlight in winter makes it even worse.
Vitamin D is a key component to a high functioning immune system.
This drop in vitamin D along with the stress of the holidays, increased sugar and alcohol intake, dry air, and a decrease in physical activity can all conspire to make an underlying infection active again.
For short term symptoms, a supplement of vitamin D3 with K2 as well as zinc picolinate can be beneficial in boosting the immune system.
2. Underlying Infection
We are inhabited by trillions of bacteria at any given time. In a pristine environment, with healthy food and clean water, these bacteria function as symbiotic partners, helping us digest food and regulate our immune system.
Unfortunately, most of us have very poor diets, are bombarded by chemicals and are under stress most of the time.
This environment provides ample food for only a few strains of 'bad' bacteria, causing them to grow unchecked and overwhelm other 'good' bacteria that serve vital purposes.
The result commonly takes the form of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and it can cause symptoms like bloating, weight gain, sinus and ear congestion, migraines and mood changes.
Read more about SIBO
Many people are walking around with undiagnosed SIBO or infection in another part of their body (like their sinuses).
These infections have low grade symptoms like fatigue, headaches, allergy-like congestion or digestive upset that patients usually dismiss.
When environmental factors like climate (dry, cold air) and toxins (indoor dust and mold), dietary factors (like holiday sweets and alcohol) and internal factors like stress and sleeplessness combine, it can make the burden of infection too high for the body to keep at a low level.
It is at this point that you have symptoms.
If this is the case for you, I would prescribe specific dietary changes and natural treatments that would address an infection without destroying your microbiome.
If your symptoms are long term or severe, we would do testing to determine the strain of your infection before further customizing treatment.
3. Environmental Toxins & Dry Air
Now that your house is shut up most of the time due to the frigid temperatures, you have to be sure that you keep your house cleaner than usual.
Toxins like mold and dust can be even more aggravating in the winter due to dryer air (and dryer sinuses).
Even your 'air-filtering,' non-flowering houseplants could be to blame for your allergy symptoms!
Vacuum frequently, employ a good air purifier, and open the windows on milder days.
If your house or place of business has humidity that is below 40%, use a humidifier, but keep it scrupulously clean.
Mold can develop in the standing water of a humidifier so be sure to empty it out and let it dry if you won't be using it for a few days.
For short term exposure, activated charcoal capsules can help escort a toxin like mold out of your body.
You should not rely on this as a long term solution as charcoal can deplete your body of minerals and you would still retain enough of the toxin to cause problems.
A functional medicine doctor can help you find a long term solution for your toxicity problems, even if you are forced to remain in an unhealthy environment.
There are tests that can be done (like the ELISA test or a delayed sensitivity test) to determine the source of your symptoms and specific supplementation that can help your body become more re