Are you surviving the cold and flu season so far? The worse has yet to come unfortunately. The Christmas and New Year's holidays usually provide further exposures to germs, allergens and irritants. The intermingling of relatives and friends as they visit each other increases the sharing of viruses, and other infections. The allergen and irritant exposure may occur when visiting households that have few or no environmental controls. Wood burning, scented candles, dusty ornaments and artificial trees and plants, cats, dogs, birds and other pets are just a few potential factors.
This time of the year one may more frequently encounter the friend or relative that smokes cigarettes, cigars or pipe tobacco. The outdoor weather keeps more of these polluters of indoor air inside.
How can you prepare for some of these potential exposures?
If you will be visiting another home for the holiday season anytime soon:
-1. Dress warmly making sure to cover your extremities well (head, face, hands and feet)
-2. Ask your allergist or doctor if certain allergy medications may be taken before leaving your home, in order to prevent allergy symptoms form occurring.
-3. Inform your host of specific triggers important for you to avoid (such as tobacco, wood burning smoke, fragrances and fumes and food allergies).
-4. If the host or hostess have pets that you are allergic to, ask that they be put up early in the day. Try to stay in rooms that are least frequented by the pets. Minimize the time you spend in homes where you have previously had problems. Leave early if you develop symptoms, especially chest symptoms.
-5. Make certain you take some of your allergy medications with you, especially inhalers.
-6. If there will be an overnight stay (not recommended in homes where problems have previously arisen) take your pillow or at least, your dust mite proof encasement with you. Have your host restrict pets from the guest bedroom area. The bedroom should be vacuumed and damp dusted hours before your arrival. Any stuffed animals or other dust catching items should be removed from the bedroom.
-7. For asthma patients: Have your asthma action plan available as well as medications required to follow the plan. Provide relatives and friends with phone numbers that may be needed in case there are serious problems.
The holidays are such joyful occasions yet allergic and infectious problems tend to frequently taint the experience for many patients and families. Frequent hand washing and limited kissing and hugs (harder not to hug...I know) might give you an edge in dodging the feared cold and flu virus. A dust or surgical mask over the face of a sick adult or older child may also help, especially if they are coughing or sneezing (of course staying home in bed would be better but...).
Hopefully you have had your flu shot, if not, it's not too late (as of the time of this posting). Of course, check with your doctor first, to make sure there are no reasons you should not get the flu shot (e.g. egg allergy).
I hope my tips and comments are helpful.
Published On: December 22, 2007