Are You Allergic to the Holidays? November 27 2016

Are you sneezing through the season? If you are wheezing your Christmas carols and looking like Rudolph with your 'nose so bright' you might just be allergic to some holiday tradition.

Most families celebrate with decor, that's been stored in a closet or attic - dusty from neglect for an entire year and live trees or poinsettias that our noses and airways just aren't used to.  It's hard to be in the "spirit" of the season when you are sniffling and hacking through the month of December.

Allergy Enemy #1: Christmas Trees & Holiday Decor

From Prevention Magazine: “Mold is the biggest problem with live Christmas trees,” says Marilyn Li, MD, an asthma and allergy specialist with the Los Angeles County + University of Southern California Medical Center. “Often, they are cut in advance and kept in humid environments, promoting spore growth.” Within just two weeks of bringing a tree into your home, indoor mold counts can increase significantly, according to one study.

And did you know? Real trees also still contain sap - which has terpene and other substances that can irritate skin and mucous membranes. Pollen leftover from the tree can also effect those who are allergic.  

Plus - the holiday favorite poinsettia plant is a member of the rubber tree family and contains compounds similar to those found in latex, so stay away if you have a latex allergy. Certain groups of people—such as healthcare workers and people with spina bifida who have had numerous surgeries—are more likely to be allergic to latex, says Li, and one study showed that 40% of latex-allergic individuals were also allergic to poinsettias. Prevent it: If you have a latex allergy, keep the iconic plant out of your house—not only can it give you a rash if you touch it, but inhaling the allergen can lead to serious respiratory problems, like shortness of breath and wheezing (see full article on Prevention Magazine)

Tips to tackle the tree trimming: wear long gloves, and give your trees, wreaths and garlands a good shake before bringing them inside the house. You could even hose them down or blow them with the leaf blower to remove unwanted dust & debris.

Allergy Enemy #2 - The Foods of The Season

The most common food allergens are milk, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and wheat.  And these things are HEAVILY involved in holiday cooking. Between the pies, sides and special treats of the season - there is high potential for food allergies at the holiday table.

Be prepared: keep an Epi-Pen on hand for guests that have unexpected emergencies. If you have asthma, always carry your inhaler with you. Ask your guests before food preparation. Try to use whole foods, organic foods and non-dairy or gluten-free alternatives in your food this holiday.

Allergy Enemy #3 - Good Smells of the Season

Everyone loves the smells of the home during the holiday.  And - it's almost always artificial. Whether it's a balsam candle, or a hot-Christmas-cookie potpourri melt - the truth is, some folks are allergic to the air spays, candles and waxes that are used to make our homes smell so delightful.

Some even consider candles a source of 'indoor air pollution' and the same has been said about aerosols, and other sprays - because they release chemicals into the air that can be noxious. They can even be the reason for an allergic reaction to some who are sensitive to the ingredients.

Au Naturale: Try to use natural scents like cinnamon and cloves, or beeswax and soy based candles. And did you know? Fireplaces are unsafe for our asthmatic friends, because the ash and smoke can trigger an attack. So be sure you know your audience before lighting the yule log.