Don’t Let Allergies and Asthma Spoil Your Holiday Season
If you or a loved one has asthma or a severe allergy, keeping the holidays
safe and enjoyable can be a challenge.
Whether you’ll be displaying
Christmas tree lights, a menorah,
or a kinara this season, now is a good
time to consider everything you can
do to protect yourself and any family
members from holiday food and
activities that could trigger an allergy
or asthma attack.
The combination of family traditions,
packed schedules, and time
spent away from home can make this
time of year especially difficult for
those with allergies and asthma.
That said, the following recommendations
may help you lower
the risk for an allergic or asthmatic
response this holiday season.
Feasts and Food
Because many holiday gatherings
involve sharing meals, those with
food allergies need to pay special
attention this time of year.
To cover your bases at holiday
parties and gift exchanges:
- Speak with the hosts ahead of time about the specific ingredients you’re allergic to and ask if any of the dishes include them. If they do, offer to bring a dish that is safe for you to eat.
- If a gathering will be held at a restaurant, call ahead of time and ask the chef to suggest meals that won’t trigger your allergies.
- Consider eating at home before a party to help ensure you won’t be tempted to sample a potentially unsafe food.
- Because cross-contamination could occur in a home or restaurant kitchen, if you or a loved one has a severe allergy, keep an epinephrine injection kit with you when dining away from home.
Special Precautions for Children
Helping a child with a food allergy
safely enjoy the holiday season can be
daunting. These guidelines can help:
- Make it clear that the holidays are not an excuse to abandon dietary restrictions.
- Modify your traditional family recipes to exclude offending ingredients by substituting safe alternatives.
- Help your child learn polite ways to refuse an unsafe dish. For example, “Thank you, but I can’t eat foods that contain nuts.”
- Come up with alternative activities you and your child can enjoy if you feel that attending a holiday dinner could be dangerous.
Dust, Mold, and Other Allergens
Unfortunately, food is not the only
allergen that surfaces during the
holidays. To stay safe, keep these
additional triggers on your watch list:
- Christmas trees. Live trees, wreaths, and garlands can trigger allergic reactions due to mold, pollen, and sap. Artificial trees can expose your family to mold and dust. To avoid these triggers, spray down both kinds of trees with a garden hose outdoors and let them dry thoroughly or blow off pollen using a leaf blower. Store artificial trees in airtight containers or plastic bags in a dry area.
- Ornaments and decorations. When brought down from the attic or up from the basement, these items can trigger reactions to mold and dust mites. Storing holiday trimmings in dry areas in sealed plastic bags can reduce reactions.
- Fireplaces. Smoke from wood-burning fireplaces is a common asthma trigger. Likewise, anyone with a nut allergy should steer clear of fires made with artificial logs, which could be made with crushed nutshells.
Because holiday travel is often nerve-racking,
be aware that stress can
trigger an asthma attack. Make sure
you have your asthma medications
with you at all times. If you’re flying,
pack them in your carry-on bag.
At any time of year, if you need
help avoiding allergy or asthma
triggers or responding to them, ask
your doctor to prepare a written
action plan for you or a family
By Barbara Floria, senior writer for Vitality.
For more information, visit the American
College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology