The holidays are a time to gather for food, friends and festivities. While everything may seem merry and bright, if you have asthma or allergies, this is when you need to be cautious. A season full of tradition and good cheer can often come with hidden allergy triggers if you’re not aware and prepared.
The experts at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology share the most common hidden holiday allergies you should be aware of:
Candles and fires: Although many people light candles to enhance the holiday atmosphere, those scented candles can quickly trigger allergy and asthma symptoms, including headaches, watery eyes and aggravated noses. Wood burning fireplaces, while stunning during the holidays, are also a trigger due to smoke. Consider flameless candles and an electric fireplace, which have the calming appearance, but no scent or smoke to make you cough or wheeze.
Trees and wreaths: Fresh fir trees and wreaths are beautiful, but some people have contact skin allergies to a substance called terpene, found in the sap of trees. What’s more, some live trees still have mold spores and pollen on them, which can cause nasal allergies to flare. Take time to rinse off live trees before you bring them in. If you have an artificial tree and decorations that you use every year, clean them to remove dust and potential mold.
Hugs and kisses: You enjoy seeing your friends and relatives during the holidays, but you may want to reconsider all the hugs and kisses, which can easily spread germs. Flu shots are available now, and it’s not too early to get yours — before flu and holiday seasons are in full swing. If you have asthma, it’s particularly important to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly. If you have an egg allergy you may have been told in the past not to get the flu shot. But years of studies have shown the vaccine is safe and does not contain enough egg protein to cause an allergic reaction, even in people with severe egg allergy.
Eats and treats: Holidays are a time to gather to enjoy delicious meals and tasty treats. If you have food allergies, you must be particularly vigilant about knowing what’s inside each item. Some people are sensitive to even trace amounts of certain foods, and this can be particularly concerning for bakery goods prepared in commercial kitchens. Always ask before you eat something new, and be an advocate for your children if they suffer from allergies. When in doubt, if you have food allergies it’s best to turn down a holiday treat with unknown ingredients.
Dust and dander: If you are allergic to indoor allergens like dust, mold and dander, you probably diligently clean your home. But that doesn’t mean the host of the party you’re attending does the same. Many of these triggers are invisible, so even a home that appears clean can cause that dreaded runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes for allergy sufferers. If you’re attending a party, or traveling to see friends, consider packing allergy medicine just in case you start to feel symptoms from triggers tugging at your good time.
Before your social calendar fills up, consider hosting a holiday event yourself. Even though entertaining takes work, it adds a level of control, so you don’t have to worry about allergy concerns. You get to cook with foods your family can safely eat and decorate with flameless candles and other allergy-friendly decor. Plus, you know your house is free of Fido’s fur or hidden dust bunnies. If people offer to bring food, make sure they know of any allergy concerns, or consider putting them in charge of other items, such as holiday napkins or paper plates for the kids.
Have questions about an existing or potential allergy for you or a loved one? Allergists are the best trained medical professionals to treat allergies and asthma, and can help you live the life you want. So if you need guidance on treating your symptoms before the holiday season is in full swing, use the allergist locator at acaai.org/locate-an-allergist to find an allergist in your area.