That time -- you know that special, hair-raising, stressful, economic-crisis has hit, stores are jammed, I can't find anything anyone would really want, what-do-I-get-for-them, gift-giving time -- is now only a few weeks away.
Add to that the friend you are buying for, or that work colleague, your boss or your assistant, your child's teacher, your in-laws, a cousin, your "someone," is allergic. To foods. To fabrics. To scents. To flowers. Or you may not even know their allergies but you just know they are allergic.
What to do? Here are some typical holiday gifts that will fall flat and go-unused or even be re-gifted by your allergic recipient.
These are the Gifts to Avoid:
1. Clothing. The workhorse of gift buying can be a minefield for an allergic person, sweaters especially. Cashmere, wool or angora can cause contact dermatitis, a flare up of existing eczema or just make an allergic person itchy. Stay away from getting that luxurious set of cashmere socks or the pretty angora scarf, it may never even come out of the box.
2. Scented products. Another common gift is the scented candle or bath and body products. Just don't do it. Most allergic people are sensitive to smells. (If your friend is a migraine sufferer, highly scented products is likely to set off a three-day migraine.) Anything with a lot of odor like scented candles, perfume, body lotion, oils cream or bath products is a no go. Step away from the Body Shop or Bath & Bodyworks et al.
3. Caramel Apples Rolled in Nuts. I know Oprah loved the nut encrusted caramel apple but please don't send that to me. It's got danger written all over it for a nut-allergic person. They wouldn't even want it in the house for anyone else to enjoy because of the risk of contaminating the kitchen etc.
4. Mail-order Food. It seems like a great idea, and it is, in theory. But any fruit basket inevitably has cheese, crackers and nuts, three major allergens. A cake through the mail? Wheat, eggs, butter, three other major allergens. Trust me, it will go uneaten or be regifted.
5. Chocolate. Chocolate is in a category by itself. A perennial favorite to give because everyone loves chocolate, it's a potential disaster for anyone with food allergies. Dairy and nuts, two major allergens, are the two most common ingredients in your standard box of chocolates. Stay away.
6. Self-help books on allergy or disease. You know your associate has an allergy and you're thinking this great book you read about food allergies, or an elimination diet or self-help about chronic disease would be a great gift. Stop! Don't assume they need this kind of book or want it. Book buying is more personal than one might think. Unless someone has said, I'd love to read XX book, there are other safer gift avenues to travel down.
7. Spa appointments or a day spa. While a lovely and generous gift, a mani or pedi or massage or another beauty treatment like a wrap, scrub or dip can also be a minefield for anyone with allergies. What's in the scrub exactly, or the lotion, or the cream? It's almost impossible to know and more often then not very sensitive folks have issues with spa treatments. If your friend has a place they love and trust, by all means go for it, otherwise beauty should take a pass.
8. Flowers. Who doesn't love flowers? They brighten up any room, are cheery and are a living part of nature in one's home. However, for someone who is allergic to pollen, sending flowers could be a sneeze-inducer and therefore not much of a gift at all.
Buying a gift for an allergic loved one is not impossible, it's actually easy! But it will take some extra thought and time to find something they will love instead of the tried and true.
Don't despair! There are good gifts you can get for your allergic friends and loved ones. Stayed tuned for some ideas that they'll really appreciate.