Sneezing your way through the holidays

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According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, and you might think people with allergies and asthma have an extra reason to be joyous during the holidays. After all, spring is when people suffer from sneezing and itchy, watery eyes and other allergic reactions, right? Well, not always.

The holidays bring their own special allergens out that can cause a host of issues for allergy sufferers. Some of them may be obvious while others may be surprising.


Christmas trees

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While people may not be allergic to the trees, there are things in the trees that could cause problems. Mold, for example, loves hiding out in evergreens, so when you bring that beautiful tree or wreath home, you could also be bringing in tiny mold spores. Those mold spores can trigger your allergies and asthma, too.

Tip: Of course, the easiest way to avoid this allergen is to use a fake tree and wreath.


Dusty ornaments

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Every year, we pack away our Christmas ornaments shortly after the holidays. They sit in boxes in a storage room or maybe in an attic. If we’re lucky, they don’t get damp, but they are probably getting plenty dusty. When you get those boxes of holiday cheer out of storage, you’re likely stirring up a cloud of dust, and if you’re allergic to dust mites, the sneezes aren’t far behind.

Tip: If you store your ornaments in the attic, try covering them with a tarp. When it’s time to get them out again, gently fold back the tarp to keep any dust that settled from spreading. You can also wipe down the boxes before moving them to make sure they’re free of dust.


Scented candles and other smelly things

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Who doesn’t love the wonderful smells of Christmas? People who are sensitive to strong odors would happily pass on these and many other scents. Why? Oftentimes, scented candles, air fresheners, perfumes, potpourri, Christmas trees and other scented holiday items can trigger allergies and asthma attacks. If you or someone you know is affected by strong odors, it’s best to avoid them.

Fun fact: While they are often considered green because they are not made of paraffin, candles made from soy come with problems of their own—especially if you are allergic to soy.


Poinsettias

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So many plants are part of the holidays: Christmas trees, mistletoe, holly and poinsettias are just a few. For some people, poinsettias are a tradition they don’t like to miss. However, some people may want to avoid them completely.

While poinsettias may not be poisonous, they can be a problem for people with an allergy to latex. You might be surprised to know that poinsettias are part of the rubber tree family, and if you’re allergic to latex, you could have problems with poinsettias.


Fireplaces

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For many, a nice warm fireplace is part of the holidays. Who doesn’t like to snuggle up next to the fire and watch the Christmas tree’s lights flicker? It’s a cherished tradition for many, but it may not be a good idea for people with allergies.

Smoke from cigarettes, wood-burning stoves and fireplaces may not be an allergic trigger, but it certainly is an irritant. In many cases, the symptoms are very similar to allergies. Additionally, asthma sufferers and people with lung issues may have some severe issues.

Tip: Instead, try an electric fireplace.


Food

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Ah, the holidays. Such fun festivities and what unbelievable food! Roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, fresh-baked rolls and pies…. Mouthwateringly good to just think about a full table spread, right? But, what about people with food allergies?

Unless you deal with food allergies every day, this is one allergy trigger you may not consider. Food and Allergy Research and Education, or FARE, estimates that roughly 15 million Americans have some type of food allergy. Considering food allergies can be life-threatening, it is important to pay attention to them during the holidays.

Tip: If you have food allergies and you’re going to someone else’s home for the holidays, the American Academy of Allery Asthma and Immunology has tips to help you through. First, be sure to ask them about the ingredients of each dish. If you’re uncomfortable eating what other people cook, it’s OK to bring your own snacks and food or eat before you arrive. Also, make sure you have an autoinjectable epinephrine with you—just in case.

Think you might have allergies? Our allergy specialists can help. Find one near you.

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