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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL (November 17, 2016) – Holiday decorations are starting to appear, reminding us that Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanza and Christmas will soon be upon us. While some people fling open their arms and welcome the merriment, those with allergies and asthma sometimes hide under the covers and ride out the tide until it’s over. Whatever your response, if you suffer from allergies and asthma, you don’t want to be sneezing and wheezing through the holidays.
“Being healthy makes any holiday more enjoyable,” says allergist Stephen Tilles, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Sometimes, it’s a matter of knowing your triggers and creating a plan to avoid them. For example, if you have asthma and know there will be a roaring fire at a party, try to steer clear of the fire, or maybe skip the event. Smoke is a common asthma trigger, and should be avoided.”
ACAAI offers the following tips for bringing the “flair, and not the flare” to this year’s holidays.
Ever heard of the “Thanksgiving Effect?” - Even if you've become tolerant of your cat or dog, you may find when you return from your first semester of college, or even after visiting relatives for the holidays, you start sneezing and wheezing. This flare-up of pet allergies is called the “Thanksgiving Effect.” An allergist can help you cope with your reaction to Bowzer and Fluffy.
Dial back the hugs and kisses – As much as you love all your friends and relatives, this is the time of year when cold and flu viruses are abundant. Because the flu can make asthma symptoms more severe, make sure to get a flu vaccine. And consider “air kisses” at parties this year.
Give the gift of song – Gift-giving can be tricky when allergies are involved. Nickel allergy is fairly common, and since many types of jewelry, belts and watches contain nickel, you have to do your homework before giving these gifts. Similarly, scented candles, potpourri, perfumes and scented body lotions can contain ingredients which are irritants to those with sensitive airways. If you’re giving candy or baked goods, make sure the recipient has no food allergies. Consider music, books, tickets to the theater, excursions to city sights or bottles of wine this year!
It’s not easy being green – As lovely as holiday trees and decorations can be, some people are allergic to the terpene found in the sap of trees, or are bothered by the mold that can sometimes be found in trees and wreaths. Artificial trees can solve the problem, but you need to clean the dust off if they’ve been in your attic with no protection.
Think ahead, ward off sneezes – Chances are pretty good you’ll run into some of your triggers as you’re out enjoying the season: dusty decorations, perfumed colleagues, pets you’ve never met and moldy leaves still on the ground. Take your medications before you leave the house, and work with your allergist if your allergies or asthma symptoms seem particularly bad.
If you find you are suffering from allergy symptoms year-round, you might consider immunotherapy (allergy shots). Allergy shots can reduce your symptoms and help modify and prevent allergy development. To find an allergist near you, use the ACAAI allergist locator.