Your goal may be to celebrate the holidays in style this year, but your allergies and asthma are making you feel like the Grinch – before his heart grew 2 sizes. Bah. You may not even be aware of what’s causing the extra sniffling, sneezing and itchy eyes.
“Two thirds of allergy sufferers have symptoms year-round, so it’s not just a matter of the first freeze hitting and your symptoms disappearing,” says allergist Bryan Martin, DO, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Even after the pollen season dies down, there are environmental triggers to deal with – things like mold, dust and pet dander. The winter holidays can bring a whole new set of triggers.”
Following are some ACAAI tips on steering clear of allergic triggers that surface during the holidays, including some you may not have been aware of.
Oh, the weather outside is frightful – Half the fun of the winter holidays is being outside – caroling, building snowmen, sledding. But if you have asthma, you need to know that very cold, dry air can be a trigger. If you’re heading outside and it’s very cold, cover your mouth and nose with a scarf or face mask – particularly if you’ll be exercising.
Over the river – If you’re traveling for the holidays and have allergies or asthma, be sure to pack your medicines. Some hotels now offer allergy-free rooms, so inquire when booking your stay. If you’re allergic to dust mites, bring your allergy-blocking bedding. If you need injectable epinephrine, make sure you have two for your trip.
Sneezing around the Christmas tree – Lots of traditions swirl around the holidays – and lots of dust, too. If you store ornaments and artificial trees in the attic without being covered, they may be full of dust, which can cause allergies to flare. Clean them thoroughly before putting them up, and when the holidays are over, store them in air-tight boxes so that next year you’ll deal with fewer triggers. If you buy a real tree, know that some people have contactskin allergies to terpene, found in the sap of trees, as well as inhalant allergies to mold spores and pollen brought into the house by fresh trees and greenery.
Bring us a figgy pudding – or not. – The holidays often involve events where other people prepare the food. If you or your kids suffer from food allergies, you’re probably skilled at bringing something you know everyone in your clan can eat. You might also want to give the host a heads up if there are certain ingredients she needs to steer clear of. Check labels of anything that’s pre-prepared that you haven’t eaten before. And know that lots of websites have allergy-safe recipes for holiday classics.
If you suffer from allergies or asthma, see a board-certified allergist. Allergists are trained to diagnose and treat your symptoms, and to work with you to create an individual action plan. To find an allergist in your area, use the ACAAIallergist locator tool.