The holiday season may holds many hazards for those suffering from allergies and asthma. During winter holidays when we gather with friends and spend more time indoors we are exposed to many different allergens. Eating at friends’ houses, at parties or in restaurants can be a huge source of anxiety for people with food allergies.
Even traveling and stress can lead to asthma attacks. Chemicals released by the body during stress can tighten the muscles around the airway causing the attacks.
Plan ahead and take some preventive actions to be safe during the holiday season.
You probably want to create a cozy atmosphere with scented candles like pumpkin, pine, and vanilla. These scents can be hazardous to some people. One third of asthma sufferers have a problem with scented candles and air-fresheners. Even low levels of these compounds can increase the risk of asthma, especially in children. Limit or eliminate scented candles, potpourri, air fresheners, and plant arrangements.
Instead of using these aromatic scents, open the windows to air out the house, or let the smell of fresh baked cookies from the oven provide natural aromas.
Look for hidden allergens in decorations.
Real Christmas trees can make you sneeze because the fragrance may be irritating. They can carry mold spores causing allergy symptoms. Let the real tree dry in the garage for a week and give it a good shake before you bring it inside. You can also use a leaf-blower (away from the house or garage) to remove visible pollen grains. Wipe the trunk thorougly with a solution of water and diluted bleach( 1 part bleach to 20 parts water) to remove mold. If you suffer from allergies consider using an artificial tree, girland, or wreath. Be careful with artificial snow; It can cause lung irritation.
Your decorations from the last year could become moldy, dusty and loaded with allergy-triggering dust mites if they weren’t stored properly in an air-tight container.
Also be aware of ponsettias since the plant is a part of the rubber tree family, which can cause serious problems for those with latex allergy.
Choose gifts carefully
Jewelries such as earrings, necklaces, watches contain Nickel, a common cause of contact dermatitis. Candy can contain nuts. Parfume and other things with strong scents can trigger allergic reactions, rashes, and asthma. Better to chose gifts like books, clothes, or gift cards.
Holidays are filled with foods which makes difficult to navigate through for those who have food allergies. Ask about ingredients before you chose to eat them. Be aware of the possibility of cross-contamination during the food preparation. If you think the provided food hide too much risk for you, don’t eat them. Bring your own food or eat at home before you arrive.
Take time to check restaurant menus before eating out. Call them ahead to help you identify menu items that allergic people can eat safely. Ask if the restaurant’s chef can prepare an allergy-free meal for you. This tip is valuable year-round, but especially important during the holiday season. Order simple food like broiled chicken, fish and avoid food which requires complicated preparation. Beware of buffets where cross-contamination may take place.
Any precaution can be a weapon against an allergic reaction. When visiting family or friends be prepared for possible allergic reactions to everything from food to pets to parfumes. Make sure someone else knows about your allergies, signs of a reaction and emergency procedures. Always carry your appropriate medications, and a written action plan highlighting your physician’s name and phone number for quick reference in case of an emergency. Have your autoinjectable epinephrin at-hand just in case.
- Hidden holiday allergy triggers: How to stay protected (cbsnews.com)
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) Editorial Board