While the holidays are a great time to bring people together, this is the time of year where changes in the environment can bring out the sniffles, especially for those who suffer from allergies. However you don't want to be a Scrooge and miss out on the holiday fun, so for those with allergies, here are some tips to survive this holiday season.
People love going to holiday parties, not just to socialize, but to enjoy the delicious food and drinks as well. If you have food or alcohol allergies, this could be risky because you could consume a food or beverage that contains an ingredient which can set off an allergic reaction. Food allergies are common and although alcohol allergies are rare, they too, can be a real concern. Sulfites, a common component in wine and other alcohols, and extra ingredients in cocktails such as eggs (eggnog), cherries, tree nuts (seasonal beers), milk (Irish Crème) and white chocolate liqueurs can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms.
If you are attending a party:
• Ask politely about the ingredients in each dish
• Consider eating before the party or bringing your own snack
• Remember to bring your EpiPen and Benadryl
If you are throwing a party:
• Pay close attention to cross contamination during food preparation
• Ask guests prior to the party if they have any food or alcohol allergies
• Carry Benadryl in case it may be needed
The Christmas tree is a staple of the holiday season. It's a symbol of celebration for the holidays. When decorated, they become the main attraction in many homes but if you have allergies, they can turn you into a Grinch.
For those with allergies, Christmas trees can induce sneezing and shortness of breath. The fragrance from the tree may also be irritating to the point where some people can break out in rashes. Some Christmas trees will grow mold spores that can trigger nasal and ocular allergies along with asthma. This is because many trees are cut and then stored in damp areas. Molds that are commonly found on Christmas trees that trigger allergy symptoms include Aspergillus, Penicillium, Cladosporium and Alternaria.
So what should you do?
If you love Christmas trees and want one, opt for an artificial tree. If you decide to go with a live tree, let the tree dry in a garage or enclosed porch and clean/shake off all potential mold prior to bringing it in your home. Before picking it up, you should spray the Christmas tree with a fungicide, which are available at most home and garden stores. If you can't find a fungicide, you can make your own by combining 1 gallon water, 3 tablespoons baking soda, 1 tablespoon bleach, and 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing liquid. Mix in a bottle and voilå!
A dog is a man's best friend, so it's hard for people to banish Snoopy and put him out in the cold during the holidays. Us pet owners might love our pet but we can be allergic to their dander, skin flakes, saliva, and urine which can cause sniffling, sneezing, itchiness and watery eyes. This can worsen in the moist winter months.
To control pet allergies, wash your hands and face frequently, keep the floors swept, and vacuumed your carpets often. If you don't have pets but are visiting friends and families with pets, remember to take your allergy medication beforehand. Be careful if you leave your pet home for an extended period of time while you are traveling. When you come home, your allergies and asthma may be worsened because you loose tolerance to your pet.
Other Holiday Tips:
• Scented candles, potpourri, air fresheners, plant arrangements and holiday baking with strong odors can cause discomfort for people with asthma. Choose candles made of soy or beeswax.
• Decorations and ornaments stored in the attic, basement, or garage can become coated with dust and mold. Be sure to thoroughly clean and dry all decorations before putting them up.
• Heating vents can blow accumulated dust and debris throughout your home. Clean or replace filters in your furnace before turning your home heating system on.
Seasonal allergies don't need to ruin your holiday season. Being prepared and taking precaution can go a long way in the fight against your allergies. To overcome allergies, it is important that you do your research and speak with your allergist about any questions you may have. By preparing in advance, you can ensure a happier holiday for you and those around you.
Follow Julie Kuriakose, M.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HudsonAllergy