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The holiday allergy grinch

Friday, 22 November 2013 11:51

For allergy sufferers, spring and fall can be a hassle – stuffy noses, headaches and sinus pressure, congestion, and itchy, watery eyes.

But for millions, the so-called allergy seasons don't end when warm weather leaves.

Winter can also be a time for allergy flare-ups. This is because with the colder weather, people are spending more time indoors, where allergens such as pet dander, dust and “volatile organic compounds” stay in the air. This can be as much of a hassle for allergy sufferers as spring and summer pollen and fall leaves.

As people begin decorating, irritants begin swirling in the indoor air. Potpourri, scented candles, dust from old holiday decorations and more start making it into the nasal passages of allergy sufferers, setting off symptoms. Because most people store holiday decorations in attics, basements, garages and crawl spaces, they can pick up dust, mold and other irritants while in storage.

For some, there’s a big, green problem with the holidays – and it isn’t the Grinch. Christmas trees, with their pine fragrance, can be a major irritant.

Adding to the winter allergy dilemma are the visits to family and friends, whose homes may not be as allergy-friendly, and visits from friends and family, who may bring allergens in with them.

In addition to respiratory allergies, many people suffer from food and drink allergies. The best way to ensure the health of holiday guests is to make sure to ask each person if they have allergies and to make sure that none of their trigger foods are served.

Although there are many allergy triggers during the holidays, careful planning can help keep festivities healthy for everyone.


Tips from the Asthma and Allergy Association of America

How to minimize allergy triggers in your home during the holidays:

DECORATIONS: Clean all stored decorations before using them and after using them to help keep down the allergens next season. Store them in airtight containers.

TREES: Artificial trees can be less irritating than real trees. But if you absolutely must have a live tree, wiping the trunk with a solution of lukewarm water and diluted bleach (one part bleach to 20 parts water) can help keep mold away from the trunk. If using an artificial tree, set it up outside and use a leaf blower to remove accumulated dust. If using a real tree, use a leaf blower to remove pollen grains.

ENTERTAINING: Many smells associated with the holidays can be allergy irritants. Limit the use of air fresheners like candles, oils and potpourri if you have guests coming over. As an alternative, try baking using naturally fragrant ingredients such as vanilla and cinnamon, or use citrus fruits and pomegranates. 

A fire is a sure way to create a warm mood during the holidays. Using gas logs, instead of wood-burning stoves or fireplaces, can reduce allergens. For any fireplace, make sure to check vents and use secured doors, rather than screens, to reduce the amount of smoke entering the room.

Give your home a thorough cleaning before guests arrive, making sure to use cleaning products that can reduce allergens from hard surfaces. You’ll also need to make sure your cleaning products do not use harsh, irritating chemicals. Clean carpets using a high-quality vacuum cleaner with a filter, which will reduce the chance of redistributing dust vacuumed out of the carpet into the air.

In addition to environmental allergies, be careful to ask all guests if they are allergic to any foods or drinks, and avoid serving those items completely at events.

GIVING: Keep your gift recipient’s potential allergy triggers in mind. You may want to avoid stuffed animals for children, and always avoid products with formaldehyde.

Could you be having an allergic reaction?

Here’s how to tell:

  • Mild allergy symptoms can include rash, itchy, watery eyes and congestion. These types of allergic reactions do not spread to other parts of the body.
  • Moderate allergy symptoms can spread to other parts of the body. They include itchiness and difficulty breathing.
  • Severe allergy symptoms, also called anaphylaxis, are life-threatening and happen when the body’s response to an allergen is sudden and affects the whole body. These reactions are rare. Symptoms may begin with sudden itching of the eyes or face, or a rash; however, within minutes, symptoms will progress to more serious symptoms, including swelling of the mouth and throat, abdominal pain and cramps, vomiting or diarrhea, as well as confusion and dizziness.

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