Many 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 the condition of those who normally suffer from allergies and asthma. Cold, dry air is the most obvious trigger, and there are other ones that are specific to the holiday season.
People who suffer from sensitive immune responses like allergies should be aware of their holiday allergy triggers, especially if they plan to travel. Packing medicines or natural solutions to deal with the discomfort is essential for safe and healthy travels.
Allergy spike during holidays
You may think that allergies are only a spring/summer occurrence, but allergies can spike during the holidays, too. This is because we are spending more time indoors with less air circulation. Plus, there are more holiday scents coming from candles and decorations, for example, which can all trigger allergies.
Being cooped up is the primary reason for holiday allergies as you are surrounded by dust and other indoor allegens.
Common holiday allergy triggers
If you want to avoid holiday allergy triggers, take a look at 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 the storage.
- Decorations – these are stored for almost a year, in many cases, collecting dust and mold.
- Food – the holidays bring lots of different foods to the table which can increase chances of accidently eating something you cannot tolerate.
- 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 can irritate the nose and throat of people prone to allergies.
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 spend more time indoors, playing or cuddling with their pets. If you don’t have a pet, but visit someone who does, it may trigger a reaction. Remember, you can also develop a new allergy at any point in your life.
Preventing food allergies and asthma during the holiday season
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, 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 cow’s milk. Many people are surprised to learn that turkey can be a major allergy trigger, too. 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.
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 attack. With careful consideration, many people are able to avoid food triggers of asthma.
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 sufferers
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 and dry winter air. Stay away from scented candles, air fresheners, and fireplaces.
- Wash hands frequently – we handle a lot of communal objects such as shopping baskets and doorknobs every day, 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.
When to visit doctor for allergy?
If you are unsure what is causing your allergic reaction then you should see an allergist to determine your triggers. Being aware of possible triggers can help you avoid them. You should also see the doctor if your allergy symptoms are negatively impacting your daily functioning.