Cold Weather Allergies

Cold Weather AllergiesNow that it is turning cold in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area, some allergic individuals are happy because they have a respite from their pollen (e.g., trees, grasses, weeds) allergies which tend to bother them in the Spring, Summer, and/or Fall.   Others however, are not as happy, as they either continue to have their allergy symptoms or develop their allergy symptoms only in the colder weather.  These individuals are allergic to other allergens such as dust mites, molds, pets, or cockroaches, to name a few.

Dust mites, molds, pets, and cockroaches are allergens that are generally considered “indoor” allergens; however, molds are found both indoors and outdoors.  Molds are particularly a problem in the Washington, DC metro area as Washington, DC was built on a swamp and the mold counts tend to be high in the area throughout the year.  The 2 most common conditions caused by these allergens are allergic rhinitis (i.e., hay fever) and allergic conjunctivitis (i.e., eye allergies).  The classic symptoms of allergic rhinitis may include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, itchy nose, itchy throat, sinus congestion, sinus headaches, and/or snoring.  The typical symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis may include itchy eyes, watery eyes, puffy eyes, and/or redness of the eyes.  Another common malady that can arise from these allergens is asthma.  Asthmatics typically complain of wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, and/or shortness of breath.  Reducing one’s exposure to dust mites, molds, pets, and/or cockroaches is generally the first step in managing allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, or asthma in most individuals.  It should be noted that exposure to cockroaches is a fairly common cause of asthma exacerbations in inner city asthmatic children.  Medications are also frequently utilized in order to better control the unwanted allergy or asthma symptoms.  Allergy immunotherapy (allergy shots, allergy injections, allergy desensitization, allergy hyposensitization) is a staple in the treatment of all 3 conditions.  Allergy immunotherapy has been around for more than 100 years and it is effective in 80-85% of individuals who take allergy shots.

There is a subset of individuals who are bothered just by the cold air and not the allergens associated with the Winter.  These patients have vasomotor rhinitis and may experience hay fever-like symptoms (i.e., runny nose, nasal, congestion, post-nasal drip) with just the exposure to cold air.  Vasomotor rhinitis is a nonallergic condition that is caused by irritants such as cold air, strong scents, chemicals, pollutants, etc.  In addition to these hay fever-like symptoms, the cold air may contribute to nose bleeds (i.e., epistaxis), watery eyes, and redness of the eyes.

The cold air does not only affect the eyes, nose and lungs when it comes to allergic and nonallergic conditions that are diagnosed and treated by board certified allergists like the ones at Black & Kletz Allergy.  The skin is affected by the cold quite often and can be extremely annoying and even serious for some individuals.  There are 4 cold-related conditions that fall under a similar category that affect the skin.   These diseases are similar, but differ mainly by their severity.  These 4 disorders include cold-induced pruritus, cold-induced urticaria, cold-induced angioedema, and cold-induced anaphylaxis.  In cold-induced pruritus, the cold air will cause an individual to have itchy skin.  A person with cold-induced urticaria will develop hives with cold exposure.  People with cold-induced angioedema will develop swelling episodes when exposed to the cold.  Lastly and most seriously, some individuals may develop life-threatening anaphylaxis when they are exposed to the cold.  It is important that a patient be prescribed a self-injectable epinephrine device (e.g., EpiPen, Auvi-Q, Adrenaclick) for patients with cold-induced angioedema and/or cold-induced anaphylaxis.  It is also important to note that any individual who needs to use a self-injectable epinephrine device should go immediately to the closest emergency room after using the device.

In addition to the 4 cold-related conditions mentioned above that affect the skin, some individuals may experience a change in the color of their skin with associated coldness, numbness, and stinging sensation.  The color change is typically a whitish or bluish color.  These individuals may have either Raynaud’s disease (i.e., primary Raynaud’s) or Raynaud’s phenomenon (i.e., secondary Raynaud’s) depending on whether there is an underlying medical problem.  Raynaud’s disease is not associated with an underlying medical disorder and is more common than Raynaud’s phenomenon, which is associated with an underlying medical condition.  The medical conditions most commonly associated with Raynaud’s phenomenon include connective tissue diseases (e.g., systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjögren’s syndrome, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis), smoking, injuries to the hands and/or feet, carpal tunnel syndrome, atherosclerosis, and certain medications (e.g., beta blockers, ADHD medications, migraine headache medications).

The board certified allergy doctors at Black & Kletz Allergy will promptly respond to any questions regarding cold-induced disorders and any other allergic or immunologic disorders.  We have been treating cold-indued disorders for over 50 years and have offices in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA.  We treat both adult and pediatric patients.  All 3 offices at Black & Kletz Allergy offer on-site parking and the Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible.  There is a free shuttle that runs between our McLean, VA office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line.  If you are concerned that you may have a cold-induced condition or any other allergy, asthma, sinus, skin, or immunology problem, please call us to schedule an appointment.  You may also click Request an Appointment and we will reply within 24 hours by the next business day.  At Black & Kletz Allergy, we strive to improve the quality of life in allergic individuals in a professional and welcoming setting.