The Allergy and Asthma Holiday Rollercoaster

Nancy Sanker Health Guide

    It's that joyful time again. But as I unpack our beloved decorations, I can't help but remember some tough holidays...and some eureka! Decembers too.


    If you or a loved one is challenged with asthma or allergies, you may already know that these health issues don't take a holiday. My wish for you is that good health surrounds you, laughter is a frequent guest at your festive table and that giving comes from a grateful heart.


    When the kids were little and we lived in Colorado, part of our tradition was to bundle up and hike on a designated mountainside for the perfect tree. Now I look at those pictures and wonder, "What were we thinking? The tree was awfully scraggly." And then it hit me - we were so cold our vision was impaired and our choice looked full and lush.

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    We hauled our lean tree home, John drilled holes in the trunk and artfully arranged some branches and... about a week later Shane's asthma became tough to control.


    We didn't suspect allergies because he had tested negative for pine, but little bodies can change relatively quickly, and soon we were artificial tree owners. It wasn't the same -- but we had a healthy holiday, our best gift.


    But HOW do you clean an artificial tree? In the past we used a damp cloth to trap dust on the branches (and other decorations) as they came out of the box, but others swear by spraying with one part vinegar to two parts water, rinsing it off in the backyard or giving it a shower. Now we own the pre-lit variety and the soft-brush attachment of our vacuum works great.


    Another part of the holidays -- parties -- spells disaster for the food allergic. Talk to the hostess in advance, and if your child is on a very limited diet as Shane was, offer to bring one item you child will be able to enjoy. I was famous for my Rice Krispie treat wreaths! And remember to arrive at any festive occasion with your pre-loaded epinephrine in case of emergency.


    Unfortunately, some people just don't understand food allergies. Shane had a life-threatening reaction after a friend assured me that the cookies she baked were OK for him to eat. After the reaction had subsided, I asked to see the recipe and was startled that it called for an egg. When I questioned my friend, who knew Shane's allergy history, she replied that she thought one egg "spread out over six dozen cookies" would not be an issue.


    And then there are the guests who brought sandwiches for the children -- they were made with white bread instead of whole wheat since she knew, "Shane was allergic to wheat." Oh, my.


    There is no rest for the parent of a food allergic child. But here's the good news for all parents who wear the food-allergy cloak: Shane is now 27 years old and has been back-packing in India and S.E. Asia for the past three months. Miracles happen.


    And we are going to celebrate the miracle of health this year. A good place to start is to visit and discover asthma friendly products, a wide range of toys and household products designed to make your giving joyful and healthy. Another great idea is to give a holiday gift of an asthma or allergy educational book to a local library or school. And last, but perhaps most important, during this time when children might focus on receiving it is good to remind them to give. There are an abundance of local organizations that need resources this year more than ever. You can also visit Network for Good, which serves as an umbrella for many worthy causes.


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    May you know the joy of healthy loved ones and the peace of giving from a contented heart.


    For more tips for an asthma-free holiday, see here

Published On: December 05, 2007