December 18, 2019

Don’t Let Holiday Allergy Pitfalls Get You Down

Does it feel like your indoor allergies affect you more during the winter, putting a damper on your holiday joy?

You are in great (sniffly) company with your fellow allergy-sufferers. When the weather gets cold, many of us hibernate indoors and surround ourselves with all kinds of allergy triggers. Take a look at some holiday allergy pitfalls and how you can manage them:

Beautiful live Christmas trees and wreaths smell delightful and make any house feel festive; however, they also bring dreaded mold spores into your home. If mold causes allergy misery for any of your loved ones, consider making the move to artificial greenery. If that notion alone makes you break out in hives due to your love of fresh holiday plants, be sure to rinse the greenery (and let it dry fully) or zap it with a leaf blower before bringing it indoors. The tree’s sap can also cause skin and/or respiratory allergy symptoms. Wear long sleeves, pants, and gloves when handling any of the live holiday plants. Consider running an air purifier nearby while the greenery is displayed.

Artificial decorations seem like they could be the answer to fresh greenery woes, but you must take care to ensure they do not bring as many or more allergens along with them. Store everything in enclosed containers to keep dust and mildew away. A further step that may help keep everyone sneeze-free is washing non-porous decorations with soapy water before displaying them and then wiping down everything else.

Steer clear of the fireplace. Mingling by the toasty fire is oh-so-tempting, but smoke exacerbates asthma. Also, do not store fireplace wood in your home. Only bring it in when needed because mold and mildew can hitch a ride on it.

Avoid using scented candles, air fresheners, and potpourri. If hosting a party, perhaps baking some sugar cookies ahead of time can give you a festive smell without aggravating sensitive eyes, noses, and lungs. Artificial snow spray can also cause sinus and respiratory irritation, so it’s best to avoid it.

Poinsettias, the iconic holiday plants, can cause allergic reactions, especially in people with latex allergies (the festive red plant is a member of the rubber tree family). If you or any loved ones have a latex allergy, do not bring poinsettias into your home. They can cause skin reactions, as well as serious respiratory symptoms.

Be mindful of pet allergies. While you may have built up tolerance to your own animals, visiting other homes with pets may send your pet dander allergies into overdrive. This even applies to college students coming home for the holidays. Snuggling their beloved pets may make them a congested, sneezy mess! Prepare for this by speaking to your allergist about medicating before a visit and what to do during and after time spent in homes with animals.

Holiday food can feel like a minefield for families dealing with food allergies. So many parties and special treats mean everyone is on high alert for allergens, especially hidden ones. Communicate your family’s food allergies with your party host, and do not hesitate to bring safe snacks and a dish to share. Just like during the rest of the year, ask about ingredients and keep epinephrine at the ready just in case.

Stop stressing! Your overall health, including allergies and asthma, are affected by stress, anxiety, and lack of sleep. Take care of yourself, sneak away for a nap, do a little yoga, meditate, get a massage, stay hydrated…whatever it takes to achieve and maintain a sense of calm during this hectic time of year.

While you can control what comes into your home, making the holiday party rounds will almost certainly bring both merriment and allergy triggers. You cannot avoid moldy, dusty decorations, festive scents, and fireplace smoke all season long. Speak with your allergist about issues you face and to find out what medications can help manage your symptoms. Ideally, you will medicate before you go instead of trying to beat back symptoms that have already begun. Your allergist can help you come up with a plan to keep you breathing easy this holiday season.