Surviving the Holidays with Allergies and Asthma

December 5, 2017 1:12 pm Published by





Surviving the Holidays with Allergies and Asthma



For people with allergies and asthma the holidays present health challenges unique to the winter season.

Busier- than- usual social schedules, chilly weather and cherished family traditions combined make just staying healthy a daily priority for people with allergies and asthma..

Surviving-and enjoying-the holidays is much easier when you plan ahead and take preventive action.

Here are a few tips to help you through this holiday season.


Food allergies


The holiday season is especially troublesome for those with food allergies. At a time when cookies and other treats are readily available, when excitement, hectic schedule and large social gatherings are common, the chance of accidental food ingestion increases and small children are especially at risk. Homemade food items often shared during the holidays do not have ingredient list and can be easily contaminated with small amount of allergenic foods through contact with storage containers, baking dishes and cooking utensils. Having a safe and relaxing holidays with  food allergic child requires planning, attentiveness, assertiveness and becoming better informed..

–     Inform family members and friends of special dietary restrictions so there will be   plenty of “safe” food to eat during holiday get-togethers.

–     Offer to prepare allergy-free dish or snacks that complement meals hosted by friends or relatives ahead of time and bring it with you and/or send with your child to school for holiday celebration party.

–      Take time to check restaurant menus before going out to eat. Call the hostess or manager and have them help you identify menu items that allergic person can safely eat.

–      During large family gatherings with many small children you may need to resort to place sticker on your child’s clothing stating “I have food allergies” or “Please do not feed me” to minimize risk of accidental food exposure.

–      If possible and age appropriate, discuss with your child importance of being extra vigilant and checking with you if there is any doubt as to if the food is safe to eat.

If at doubt however it is best to follow the rule,“ If not sure don’t eat the food”

–      Discourage smooches and make relatives aware that even tiny amount of food on their lips or hands is capable of triggering allergic reaction in a exquisitely food sensitive individual.

–      Most important however is to have an action plan outlined, carry self- injectable epinephrine and have it  readily available in case of accidental food exposure.


Environmental allergies.



If a live evergreen tree is a tradition that you cannot live without you may want to take some precautions to prevent allergic and related reactions.

Although there have been reports of respiratory symptoms in association with this enduring symbol of the holidays, the reactions may have less to do with allergy than with other sources. Evergreen pollens, with their thick, waxy outer coating, have never been considered a significant allergen and one unlikely to cause a reaction. According to one study, real and artificial Christmas trees can be a source of other allergens. Artificial trees as well as tree decorations are a potential source of mold and dust caused by improper storage. Real Christmas trees may act as a source of mold or contaminating pollens such as ragweed. Interest also surrounds natural tree resins as possible airborne irritants. In rare cases, the tree sap also may cause a contact allergic rash.

Studies suggest little difference between real and artificial trees as pollen and mold sources. The risks associated with a real and artificial tree can be reduced significantly by following simple precautions:

Before bringing your live tree home ask retailer to shake the tree on a special shaking device to get rid of any pollen and loose, dry residue. You may accomplish similar effect by hosing your tree down with garden hose or using a leaf blower in a well ventilated area and away from the house.

Wipe the trunk with a solution of lukewarm water and diluted bleach (one part bleach to 20 parts water) before bringing your tree indoors to eliminate any mold.

It is recommended that ornaments and lights be cleaned of dust and molds before displaying them on the tree and stored later on in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag.

Artificial trees should be wiped of dust and stored in plastic encasing after use. They are suitable substitutes for a live tree as long as they are not coated with sprayed –on “snow”. Such additions (including pine scented sprays or oils can aggravate asthmatic or allergic symptoms.

If you are very sensitive to dust and molds consider using a dust mask while getting your Christmas tree ready for display.


Other tips for the holidays.


–   When visiting family or friends be prepared for possible reactions from pets to     food to perfume. If visiting relatives with pets, take allergy medication before arriving to minimize possible reaction.

–   Limit scented candles, potpourri,. air fresheners, plant arrangements and holiday baking with strong odors that can cause discomfort for people with asthma. Same goes for wood burning and cigarette smoke.

–   Take your own pillow or allergen-proof pillow encasing when traveling away from home. Ask for down free pillow if staying in a hotel.


Holiday stress.


Tailor your holiday celebrations so that those events are manageable. Don’t be a slave to traditions from your family’s distant past. Remember that entire holiday season is more important that any one specific event, and that these celebrations and rituals are meant to bring families and friend together and reinforce their identity as a group, not exhaust them or make them ill.

If you find yourself alone this holiday season don’t despair. Nobody says you can’t create your own holiday ritual, just for you. Be creative and try to be around other people. Go out to hear some music or try volunteering for a worthy cause, such as serving the homeless a holiday meal or donating time to needy children.


Most of all don’t forget to take your daily allergy and asthma medication and have action plan ready in case of emergency.


Have a Happy and Healthy Allergy Free Holiday Season.


Mariola Kubicka, M.D.