Say ‘Bah Humbug!’ to Allergy, Asthma Triggers
Preparing your home for the holidays, whether you're dusting off a Christmas wreath or unpacking a Menorah, can turn a festive time into a miserable one for allergy and asthma sufferers.
Although many people think of spring and fall as peak allergy seasons, the holidays bring their own hazards for those who sneeze and wheeze.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) and its allergist members, doctors who are experts at diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma, want to spread holiday cheer by alerting people to these seasonal allergens and offering tips on how to stay healthy:
Christmas Tree: Both live and artificial trees can trigger symptoms. Some people are allergic to terpene, found in the oil or sap of trees, evergreen wreaths and garlands. Others are bothered by mold on trees, or pollen, often found on junipers and cedar evergreens. Use a leaf blower in a well-ventilated area to help remove some of the pollen and wash live trees, especially the trunk, with a garden hose and leave in a bucket of water in the garage or on a covered porch to dry. Wear gloves when handling the tree to avoid sap. Artificial trees can harbor dust and mold if stored improperly. Wash these trees also outside to help eliminate some of the dust or mold. When storing the tree, place in an air-tight bag or container to hinder allergen accumulation.
Let it Snow… Outside: While artificial snow in aerosol cans helps bring the look of the season indoors, these sprays can trigger asthma and allergy symptoms. Also be wary of scented candles, potpourri and other scents, and stay clear of wood-burning fireplaces.
Deck the Halls: Menorahs, ornaments and other decorations stored in attics and basements for months often gather dust and mold and can trigger an allergic reaction when they come out of storage. Clean each item thoroughly before decking the halls, dining room or tree. When packing things away, store in airtight containers.
Pass Around the Coffee and the Pumpkin Pie: Holiday gatherings including Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa often revolve around eating, increasing the likelihood that those with food allergies could accidentally eat, or be tempted by, foods that can cause a reaction, such as eggs, milk, nuts and shellfish. If you have food allergies, ask the host about ingredients used in each dish and bring your own "safe" food to share. If you are the host of a holiday gathering, talk to guests in advance about food allergies.
Over the River and Through the Woods: When traveling to celebrate the holidays, be sure to pack your medication in your carry-on bag. If you are bothered by dust mites, bring pillow and mattress covers to use once you arrive.
You Better Watch Out: While stress doesn't cause allergies or asthma, it can hinder your immune system. The chaos of the holiday season also may distract you from keeping yourself healthy, including taking your allergy and asthma medication. Carve out time to stay on top of your symptoms so illness doesn't derail your holiday plans. When people gather, viral illnesses are more likely to be passed around. If you have asthma, you should talk to your doctor about getting a flu shot.