You might be confusing an allergic reaction for a fluUpdated: Dec 12, 2019 23:49 IST
New Delhi: Sneezing, sniffing and a runny nose in winter months are often not signs of seasonal influenza but allergies, which become more common with the drop in temperature. Outpatient departments (OPD) of clinics and hospitals in the city have registered a rise in allergy cases over the past two weeks.
“There has been a jump of about 20% in the number of allergy cases that we get now as compared to around 10 days ago. Allergies are common during the onset of winters because people spend more time in closed environments and are exposed to indoor allergens,” said Dr Srikant Sharma, senior consultant, department of medicine, Moolchand Hospital.
Winter allergies are essentially indoor allergies due to less ventilated spaces that increase exposure to indoor allergens such as dust mites, mould, dust particles, and others. Some people, especially children and the elderly, are also allergic to fog particles that tend to aggravate already existing symptoms or result in symptoms.
“The number of people getting tested for respiratory allergies goes up substantially in the winter months. There are many different allergens in winter, to identify what is triggering an allergic response and the best prevention is avoiding the trigger, as allergic reactions cannot be cured. The symptoms, however, can be treated. Now we have immune-therapies that can treat specific allergies, which can help people who develop extreme reactions to certain allergens,” said DR Navin Dang, consultant microbiologist and founding director of Dr Dang’s Lab.
Dust mites are commonly found in bedding, furniture upholstery, and mould thrive in damp spaces like bathrooms. Since symptoms of allergies are almost similar to that of bacterial and viral infection, people often confuse an allergy with the flu or common cold.
“Allergies usually come with associated symptoms that tend to last longer because of constant exposure to the allergen. Cases of pollen allergies usually go down in winters as we mostly see symptoms due to exposure to allergens largely found indoors,” says Dr RK Singal, chairman, department of internal medicine, BLK Super Speciality Hospital.
If it is a common cold, then the symptoms will likely last for about a week or so. In the event of a viral infection, the symptoms will be accompanied with headache, joint ache, dry cough and low-grade fever. If it is a bacterial infection, the sputum (phlegm) will be yellow or greenish in colour, accompanied with high-grade fever and sore throat.
In cases of allergies, however, there are associated symptoms such as itchy skin, burning, itchy or watery eyes, throat irritation etc. The solution lies in avoiding exposure to triggers.
“Though we put cases of severe allergy on anti-inflammatory medicines to control symptoms, but that is a temporary solution. People must try to identify the allergen and avoid it as far as possible, especially sudden change of temperature that is harmful. Switch off the heater or AC before going out so that body gets used to ambient temperature. Body reacts to any changes in temperature beyond 8 degrees Celsius,” said Dr Sharma.