Holiday Allergies - How To Cope


...elusive dreamer
Apr 5, 2009
Here's an article that explains some allergies that may be triggered around the holiday season, from indoor trees to foods...

How do you handle common culprits of the season? Here are some ideas.

Trees and other greenery. The trees and wreaths themselves might not be as problematic as the mold or pollen they may harbor. Spraying live greens with a garden hose before bringing them indoors can minimize this allergy source. Some retailers have shaking machines that physically remove many allergens from trees.

Inside, place greenery in a well-ventilated area and limit indoor time to no more than a week or two, recommends Eric Clark, MD, of Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. Artificial trees can also cause problems if mold or dust accumulates during storage, so it’s best to wipe them with a cloth before assembly.

Decorations. Love the embroidered stocking your grandmother made? If it was stored in a damp basement or musty attic, it could be harboring molds, dust mites and other allergens, Clark says.

A better idea is to use plastic, metal or glass decorations that don’t hold dust mites like fabric can. Wash stockings, tree skirts and anything else made of fabric or other porous materials before displaying. “Storing them in dry plastic totes off-season can help,” Clark adds.

Firewood. Wood stored outdoors may be musty or moldy. Skip the fire if smoke irritates sinuses or provokes an asthma attack. (“I do miss a roaring fire in our fireplace,” Estes laments.) You can at least partially replicate the effect with a gas or electric fireplace.

Fragrances. Holiday candles, potpourri and perfumes may cause trouble; not only can the scents be irritating, but indoor candles also create soot. Unscented beeswax or soy candles are less likely to create problems than those made with paraffin. Go easy on strong-scented plants such as gardenias and pine wreaths. Even baking odors may trigger discomfort, so use kitchen exhaust fans vented to the outdoors.

Party Food Hazards

What would the season be without roasted chestnuts and eggnog? For many people, the answer is healthy; anyone suffering from food allergies must be especially careful during the holidays. “Potluck celebrations are popular, and cross-contact [allergen remnants transferred via utensils or containers] happens more readily,” says Maria Acebal, CEO of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network ( Read labels, and if you’re susceptible, refuse to eat any food that doesn’t have an ingredient list—sorry, that includes homemade goodies.

“If you’re hosting a holiday event, ask guests beforehand if they have food allergies or intolerances and don’t be offended if a guest offers to bring her own food or asks to read package labels,” Acebal says. The risk for accidental ingestion increases with hidden allergens in readily available party foods that include nuts, shellfish, chocolate, eggs, wheat and milk. If you’re a holiday hostess, provide a selection of foods without these ingredients.

One major source of food-related misery is gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat and rye. In some people an autoimmune reaction to gluten can damage the inner lining of the small intestine, which reduces the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

Fortunately, the availability of foods made with gluten-free grains such as amaranth, quinoa, millet and (despite its name) buckwheat is increasing.

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