Seemingly harmless traditions can trigger allergy or asthma reactions for some. Keep your holiday safe and healthy by taking these simple precautions.
While decorating the mantle with evergreens or sitting in front of the fireplace, you may find yourself sneezing or wheezing. Allergies and allergic asthma don’t take a break during the holiday season. In fact, for some, symptoms may even get worse.
Here are some tips to help keep your holiday season healthy and happy.
The most allergy-friendly choice for a Christmas tree is an artificial one. If you decide on a live tree, the main source of allergy is mold. If you must have a live tree, consider the following:
- Consider an artificial tree.
- For artificial trees:
- Clean before decorating to remove mold and dust.
- Don’t buy trees with artificial snow.
- For a fresh tree, wipe down the trunk thoroughly with a mixture of warm water and a little bit of bleach (one part bleach to 20 parts water).
- Live evergreen trees, such as juniper and cedar, may continue to pollinate even in the winter. Look for yellowish dust on the trunk or needles.
- Have someone else remove the pollen with a leaf blower outside away from the house. Or better yet, simply don’t get these trees.
- Wash fabric decorations in hot, soapy water before displaying.
- When finished with the decorations at the end of the season, seal them in a plastic bag or other airtight container before storing.
- Use plastic, metal, or glass decorations. Fabric decorations are more likely to trap dust mites.
- Don’t spray artificial snow on windows or other surfaces. These sprays can irritate your lungs.
- At parties, tell the host about any food allergies you may have and ask about the ingredients used for the meal. Also remind others about your child’s food allergy. Strict avoidance is the best defense.
- Homemade items can be contaminated with trace amounts of allergenic foods through contact with storage containers, baking sheets, kitchen surfaces, and utensils. Ask your doctor if you should carry self-injectable epinephrine if you have had a serious reaction in the past.
The fireplace and heating systems
- Heating vents can blow dust throughout your home. Use high-efficiency furnace filters, which are 30 times more effective at collecting pet dander and other allergens. Replace filters every two to three months or as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Don’t store firewood in your home. The wood could contain mold.
- If you use a fireplace, make sure the chimney is clean and working properly. Keep the doors closed to reduce as much smoke as possible.
Outdoor and indoor mold
Late fall and winter yard work can kick up mold spores, often a trigger for allergies and allergic asthma. Mold can also grow indoors in damp areas.
- Wear a face mask and gloves while working with wet leaves and dirt.
- Remove wet leaves and dirt from gutters and from around windows and door frames.
- Keep indoor humidity at 50 percent or below.
- Consider using a dehumidifier.
- If you have to stay at a motel or a relative’s home, take your own pillow encased in an allergen-proof cover.
- If you are traveling to visit friends and relatives, be sure to take your medications with you.
The holidays can be very stressful and frantic. Pay attention to your stress level, which may make asthma symptoms worse in some people.
The cold air can also make asthma worse. Wear a scarf over your face to help warm and humidify the air.