AchooAllergy.com Blog
Allergies and Cold Weather
Posted by Desirina on Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Q: My allergies often feel worse after I've been outside in chilly weather. How does the cold affect allergies?

A: Most of us feel sniffly after being outside in the cold for too long. But for allergy sufferers, the combination of the cold and allergy symptoms can be a double whammy. The cold weather doesn't actually cause respiratory allergies, but by replicating allergy symptoms of congestion and runny nose, it can make your allergies feel even worse.

Breathing cold air causes nasal congestion in two ways. First off, the cold air affects an important body defense mechanism called mucus transport, which stimulates an increase in mucus production. In plain English, the cold makes your nose run – a way of fending off any nasal intruders which might try to venture in. Second of all, cold air affects the tissue in your nose. It's your nose's job to warm or cool the air you breathe to your body temperature – 98.6 degrees. When you're breathing frosty cold air, that's a tough job. The capillaries in your nose tissue dilate, bringing warm blood to heat the cold air. Dilated capillaries mean swollen tissue, and more nasal congestion and stuffiness.

Extreme temperatures can also trigger asthma reactions. For an asthma sufferer, it's a good idea to wear a warm scarf or mask during cold or damp weather.

Note: It is possible to have a true allergic response to cold temperatures, although this condition is very rare. The condition is called cold induced urticaria. However, cold urticaria generally causes a reaction in the form of hives or welts, not a respiratory condition. For more information on cold urticaria, contact your doctor.


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