Holiday allergies, asthma attack triggers to avoid during the holiday season

By: Emily Lunardo | Allergies | Wednesday, December 30, 2015 - 09:00 AM

Woman blowing her nose at homeMany people assume that allergies and asthma are problems that disappear once the cold weather kicks in, but this isn’t the case, especially during the holiday season.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) two-thirds of allergy sufferers experience symptoms all year round. Even after pollen dies down, there are a number of triggers that can aggravate those who normally suffer from allergies and asthma. While the most obvious and most common trigger is cold, dry air, there are other triggers that are specific to the holiday season.

People who suffer from sensitive immune responses like allergies should be aware of holiday allergy triggers, especially if they plan to travel. Packing medicines, or natural therapies to deal with the discomfort will be important.

Related Reading: Asthma health news roundup 2015

Common holiday allergy triggersseniors

If you want to avoid holiday allergy triggers, review the list below – it could explain why you’ve had problems in previous years.

  • Christmas trees – while beautiful once decorated, trees sprout mold within two weeks of being brought indoors. Some that are cut in advance already have mold. Sap from trees contain “terpene,” which can also irritate mucous membranes. As well, pollen that is stuck to the trees can release once brought inside the home.
  • Artificial trees – they can contain dust and mold from being in storage.
  • Decorations – for several months they are stored and in many cases are collecting dust and perhaps mold.
  • Food – the holidays bring lots of different foods to the table and that can increase chances of accidently eating something that you are allergic to.
  • Alcohol – wine has sulfites that can cause wheezing for some people, while other alcoholic mixes contain food allergens.
  • Poinsettias – this holiday plant is part of the rubber tree family and has a compound similar to latex, so if you are allergic to latex, there is a chance you will be allergic to this pretty plant.
  • Special scents – potpourri, scented candles and air sprays – they can irritate the nose and throats of allergy sensitive people.

Pets can also be a big trigger over the holiday season. While some people may have a history of mild allergies to pets, that allergy can worsen around the holidays because they are indoors more, playing or cuddling with their pets. If you don’t have a pet yourself, but visit someone who does, it may trigger a reaction. Remember you can also develop a new allergy at any point in your life.

Avoid food allergies and asthma during the holiday seasondressing sauces

Living with allergies and asthma is not easy at any time of year, so when the holidays roll around it just adds another set of challenges. The good news is that you can protect yourself with some thoughtful planning.

Food plays such a big role in holiday celebrations, so if allergies are a concern for you, eating before a party or family gathering might be a good idea. Another option is to bring some snacks with you, just in case you can’t eat what is being served.

The most common foods involved in allergies are: eggs, peanuts, wheat, fish, shellfish, nuts and cows milk. However, many people are surprised to learn that turkey can be a major allergy trigger. It turns out that allergens in stuffing can be absorbed into the meat. Cooking a turkey unstuffed might be a better idea. You can also think about cooking an organic, free-range turkey that has no additives in it.

While it is not common for food to cause asthma attacks, it is possible for food preservatives to trigger asthma. Sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, and sodium sulfite are just a few examples of additives that could lead to an asthma attack. With careful consideration, many people are able to avoid asthma triggers related to food.

The following foods have been known to trigger asthma:

  • Dried fruits
  • Prepared potatoes
  • Bottled lemon or lime
  • Beer or wine
  • Prepared, fresh or frozen shrimp
  • Pickled foods

Tips to avoid holiday triggers for allergy and asthma sufferershealthy

Nobody wants to be sniffling, sneezing, and coughing through the holidays. Prevention is the best defense against both allergies and asthma.

Here are some tips to avoid holiday allergy and asthma triggers:

  • Practice proper storage – when it comes to artificial trees and decorations, remember to store them in an airtight container to avoid dust and place the container in a dry place to prevent mold. Wipe down the decorations before you actually put them in the container for storage. If you prefer a live tree, blast it with a leaf blower or rinse it and let it dry before bringing it inside. This will help eliminate some of the pollen and sap that may be clinging to the branches and trunk.
  • Avoid triggers – cover your mouth when you are out in the cold/dry winter air, stay away from scented candles, air fresheners and fireplaces.
  • Wash hands frequently – we handle a lot of communal objects each day, such as shopping baskets and doorknobs, so washing hands is important.
  • Get a flu shot – flu germs are everywhere and can make asthma symptoms worse.
  • Discuss food allergies – tell family and friends about your food allergies before any gatherings.
  • Consume fresh foods – when possible, try not to eat foods that contain a lot of preservatives.

If you experience shortness of breath or you have a wheezing sound in your chest when you breathe, you just might have asthma. If you have skin rashes, itchy watery eyes, headaches and a cough, it could be allergies. Some people suffer from both allergies and asthma.

It’s important not to suffer in silence and, once diagnosed, to know that there are many ways to cope, even during the holidays. Planning ahead and asking your family and friends to make some minor adjustments to accommodate you will mean you can get through the season without feeling miserable and missing out on all the great festivities.

Related Reading:

Asthma in winter: Cold weather can trigger asthma attacks, seasonal allergies
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Indoor winter allergy risks, stopping asthma, rhinitis causing allergens in your home
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