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Two-thirds of all physician office visits are for ear, nose, throat or allergic problems!

Tips for an Allergy-Free Holiday

Take Precautions to Prevent Allergic Reactions During the Holidays

If you celebrate the holidays with the traditional Christmas tree, you may want to take some precautions to prevent allergic and related reactions. Although there have been reports of respiratory symptoms in association with this enduring symbol of the holidays, the reaction may have less to do with the allergy than with other sources.

Evergreen pollens, with their thick, waxy outer coating, have never been considered a significant allergen, and are unlikely to cause a reaction. According to one study, real and artificial Christmas trees can be a source of other allergens. Artificial trees are a potential source of mold and dust caused by improper storage. Real Christmas trees may act as a source for mold or contaminating pollens such as ragweed. Interest also surrounds natural tree resins as possible airborne irritants. In rare cases, the tree sap also may cause a contact allergic rash.

“Studies suggest little difference between real and artificial trees as pollen or mold sources,” noted William Solomon, M.D., of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

The risks associated with a real or artificial tree can be reduced significantly by following simple precautions.

  • Use a cloth to wipe clean your artificial tree.
  • To remove pollens from your real tree, take it outside and spray it with a garden hose.
  • Place the stump in a bucket of water and then allow the rest of the tree to dry thoroughly in the garage.
  • Store the tree in a sealed plastic casing before setting it up.
  • When handling a real tree, wear gloves to keep sap away from the skin.
  • It is also recommended that ornaments and lights be cleaned of dust and mold.

The holiday season is especially troublesome for those with food allergies. At a time when cookies and other treats are readily available, the chance of accidental ingestion increases. The most common food allergies include milk, eggs, legumes (especially peanuts), and tree nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts. Because it can take only a tiny amount of the offending food to trigger a potentially dangerous reaction, those with food allergies should exercise caution.

You should avoid the following holiday party foods if you have one or more of the above allergies:

  • Baked goods/pastries (often contain several allergens, especially nut products)
  • Eggnog
  • Fruitcake
  • Meatballs
  • Cheese
  • Glazed rolls/bread
  • Ice cream
  • Macaroni mixes
  • Quiches
  • Some salad dressings
  • Mixed nuts
  • Vegetable/chip dips

Homemade items do not have ingredient lists and can be contaminated with small amounts of allergenic foods through contact with storage containers, baking sheets and utensils. Food allergy reactions can also be intensified by smoking or exposure to smoky areas. Although avoidance is the best way to handle food allergies, it may not always be possible. Using an antihistamine before a party where there may be exposure to an unrecognized food allergen could help prevent or reduce the severity of a reaction, but should not be relied upon for protection. For those with severe sensitivities, self-injectable epinephrine should be available. Note: Parents of food allergic children should pack a snack from home for their child when school classes have holiday or birthday parties. It’s the only way to avoid inadvertent exposure to allergenic foods.

Another Season for Allergy Problems

The Christmas season along with cold weather bring on health symptoms most people associate with colds or the flu. These symptoms could very well be allergy-related.

Are you suffering from hives, eczema, nasal congestion, sinus headaches, chronic cough, bronchitis, or asthma? You may be suffering from allergies.

The following factors are often associated with Christmas allergies.

  • Pulling out the Christmas decorations and putting up the Christmas tree, whether it be real or artificial, can cause allergic reactions in those individuals with dust and mold allergies.
  • Those with fragrance sensitivity suffer more during the holiday season. The smell of Christmas abounds from scented candles, potpourri and sales of perfumes.
  • Did you know stress can aggravate your allergies? Psychological stress suppresses the immune system which may result in increased frequency and duration of colds and flu, allergies, and asthma.
  • Ingredients found in many holiday treats including eggnog, cookies and candy can cause a variety of symptoms for the food allergic individual and can even be deadly for some.