Doctors say those suffering from allergies and asthma may be having an especially hard time this winter.
Dr. Girish Vitalpur is an allergist with Indiana University’s Riley Hospital for Children. He says there’s an abnormal increase in allergy symptoms among patients right now.
Vitalpur thinks that cold weather could be the culprit—both directly and indirectly.
The cold weather’s direct effects are most noticeable with asthma sufferers, whose lungs can constrict in response to colder air.
While cold weather itself doesn’t make allergies worse or generate more allergens, when people spend more time inside it increases their exposure to indoors allergens like dust and pets.
“We don’t have much in the way of pollen allergies this time of the year,” Vitalpur says. “But if someone is allergic to animals and they are trapped indoors because of the cold weather, and they’re more exposed to their animals that can also contribute to more problems.”
The increased time indoors and around others also increases the chances of getting sick. That can be problematic for asthma sufferers, especially with a particularly bad flu season.
“The biggest issue is infections, viruses. We’re trapped indoors more so we’re much more exposed,” Vitalpur says. “And so especially for children, that really seems to trigger off lots of asthma problems in the winter months.”
Vitalpur says those who already have existing asthma issues should work with a doctor or allergist to manage their symptoms.