Staying Healthy with Allergies Through the Holidays
When people think of seasonal allergies, they usually think about things like tree, grass and weed pollens, as well as outdoor molds. But, did you know that you might see an increase in your allergy symptoms during the holiday season? If you do, you might think of this as another form of seasonal allergies.
Common Holiday-Related Triggers for Seasonal Allergies
Believe it or not, the holidays can be harmful to your health if you have allergic sensitivities! Here are a few of the common culprits that may trigger allergy symptoms:
- Christmas trees. Those beautiful live trees have an irritating sap, made with a substance called terpene that can be a potent allergen. But your tree may also carry in all kinds of pollen and molds that have come to rest in its needles and on the bark of the trunk. Most allergy experts discourage people who have allergies from having real trees in their houses. But even artificial trees can accumulate dust and molds during the off-season, especially if they are stored in damp basements.
- Christmas ornaments and decorations. Just like artificial trees, your decorations may accumulate dust and molds while in storage. You take the risk of stirring up the dust mites and mold spores when you take out your festive things.
- Wood smoke and other airborne irritants. Wood fires in fireplaces, yule logs and wood stoves can all be a source of irritating wood smoke during the winter and holiday season. Burning candles, especially if they are scented, may also be an irritant to those who are sensitive.
- Pet dander and urine. If you have pets yourself, they are likely to spend more and more time indoors as the weather changes during the holiday season. This means the risk of greater amounts of pet dander and so on in the house. Even if you don't have pets, chances are you'll be visiting someone over the holidays who does have them.
- Unfamiliar foods. No matter how careful you are about eating allergy-safe foods at home, during the holidays, you are likely to be tempted with foods prepared by others that may contain food allergens, such as nuts or eggs. Sometimes these foods come in the form of gifts that are hard to resist or may be offered at parties and holiday get-togethers.
How to Minimize the Effects of Holiday Allergy Triggers
1. Avoid live trees and pine garlands/wreaths if you can. It can be hard to give up your live tree, but you'll reduce the mold spores and pollen in your home during the holidays if you do. If you use an artificial tree, though, be sure to vacuum it thoroughly before bringing it back into your living space. Some trees might even be able to be hosed down outdoors.
2. Store your decorations in sealed, moisture-resistant containers in a dry space. When you take them out, clean them thoroughly with a vacuum that has a HEPA-filter. Or, at least dust them well before spreading them around in your home. It's probably best to avoid stuffed toys and dolls whenever possible, as well.
3. Use wood-burning devices with caution. Be sure they are clean and well-vented, so that smoke does not accumulate in your room air. Avoid burning candles; these days, you can find lovely artificial candles that still give off a soft glow and look very real.
4. Limit your contact with pet allergens. Keep your own pets out of the bedroom and main living areas as much as possible and vacuum often. When visiting, ask your hosts if their pets can be kept out of the rooms in which you'll be spending most of your time. Even so, be prepared for some spike in symptoms, as the pet's dander is likely to still be present. You can take an antihistamine ahead of time as a preventive, if necessary.
5. If you have food allergies, avoid foods made by others unless you are 100% sure of the ingredients. It's best to ask questions now and avoid problems down the line. If you're not sure what's in a food item, it makes sense to avoid it, no matter how tempting it looks or smells.
Holiday allergies don't have to interfere with your holiday fun, provided you use caution and take steps to avoid your allergens as much as you can. Also, be sure to use your allergy medicine on a regular basis, just as you would during spring, summer or fall allergy seasons.
Updated: December 6, 2016