The holiday season, the most wonderful time of the year can also be the “most stuffiest” time of the year for the more than 40 million Americans that suffer from allergies and asthma. By planning ahead and treating symptoms before they start, you can enjoy a sneeze and wheeze free holiday season.

Allergy and asthma triggers can be difficult to escape during the holidays.  Visiting family and friends, exposure to burning candles, strong odors, indoor pets and dusty holiday decorations can all serve as triggers for increased allergy and asthma symptoms.

Insure that your holidays are enjoyable and symptom-free by following these tips:

  • Be Selective with Decorations: Everyone loves a festive home, but watch out for hidden allergens that can lurk in the decorations. Decorations may be dusty and loaded with allergy-triggering dust mites especially if they have not been stored in airtight plastic containers. Some people are allergic to terpene found in the sap of Christmas trees, or are bothered by the mold that lurks on the trees. Consider artificial trees, wreaths and garland. Also watch out for poinsettias which can be problematic for people with latex allergies since the plant is part of the rubber tree family.
  • Be Alert for Hidden Food Allergens: Food allergens can show up in the strangest places- peanut butter in chili, ground nuts in pie crust, shellfish in stuffing, even turkey can be a landmine. Allergens in the stuffing can absorb into the meat, so try cooking the bird unstuffed. Also stick to a natural turkey, which contains only turkey and water, since self-basting turkeys can contain soy, wheat and dairy.
  • Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice: Pine-scented candles and strongly scented air-fresheners can provide and inviting aroma, they can also act as  a trigger for increased allergy and asthma symptoms. About one-third of people with asthma report health problems from air fresheners, which contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Studies show VOC exposure even below accepted levels can increase the risk of asthma in children. Open the windows to air out the house, or let the scents from the oven provide natural aromas.
  • Beware of the Thanksgiving Effect: Even if you can tolerate your own cat or dog, you may find yourself sneezing and wheezing when you return from visiting friends or relatives homes for the holidays. This flare-up of pet allergies in called the Thanksgiving Effect. Pretreat with medications that your allergist has prescribed before visiting homes known to have pets that you are allergic to.
  • Allergen Free Home Sweet Home: Change furnace filters at least monthly, make sure fireplaces and wood burning stoves are well vented to prevent fine particulate matter from entering your living spaces, do not allow anyone to smoke cigarettes or cigars indoors and use artificial Christmas trees and garland to help reduce the indoor allergens and irritants that can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms.
  • Preventive Measures Work: Talk with your physician regarding preventive treatment that may include avoidance of triggers and medications. If you haven’t already done so, get your flu shot, maintain a healthy diet, get plenty of rest and avoid as much stress as possible.

Have a happy, healthy sneeze and wheeze-free holiday season!