December 15, 2020

Managing Allergies During the Holidays: A Survival Guide

Allergies don’t care that it’s the holiday season, and unfortunately the holidays fall during some of the worst seasonal and environmental allergy times of the year. There are so many things that can make seasonal and environmental allergies worse, from seasonal foods to avoid, to the fresh pine scent of your Christmas tree, or sitting around the fire. All of these can exacerbate your allergies. How? We’ll explore all the elements here.

Can Holiday Decorations Make Allergies Worse?


If you have seasonal or environmental allergies, it's likely that you're allergic to dust mites. And if you've been storing away your holiday decorations for months, then those decorations are probably covered with dust mites.That means when you bring those decorations back into your home during the holidays and put them around your house, there's a good chance those dust mites will get stirred up into the air where you breathe them in. So yes! 

Holiday decorating can definitely make your allergies worse, but here are some tips that can help decrease your dust allergy symptoms:

  • If you know your allergies are triggered by dust mites or mold, consider wearing a face mask and protective eyewear when you are taking them out of storage. It might be worth even using a pair of goggles or a face shield so you can protect yourself from any dust or debris that may be clinging to the decorations before putting them up around the house.

  • Make sure to dust your decorations off – preferably outside – before putting them up around the house. If possible, try using an air compressor to blow off any extra dust from hard-to-reach areas where allergens could remain after dusting.

  • Wash fabric decorations like stockings, tree skirts, etc. in hot, soapy water before displaying.You'll also want to wash any other fabrics like tablecloths or runners that may not have been cleaned since last year's festivities concluded (especially if they were used outside).

  • If you're storing your Christmas decorations in cardboard boxes, wrap your decorations in plastic before putting them back into storage. This will prevent dust and mold from clinging onto your decorations next year (and keep them looking brand new). You can also invest in a tree bag that will keep allergies like dust and mold at bay while still allowing your tree to retain its shape!

Is My Christmas Tree Making My Allergies Worse?

If you celebrate Christmas, then no decorating is complete without the home’s centerpiece: the Christmas tree. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, Christmas tree pollen (pine, fir, and spruce trees) allergies are fairly uncommon. It’s more likely that your symptoms are increasing due to the mold, dust, or pollen stuck on the tree. Now these allergens can be found on both artificial and real trees. 

Here are a few tips on how to minimize an allergic reaction to your Christmas tree:

  • Before decorating a live Christmas tree, spray your tree with a fungicide or a bleach-water solution (be aware of a chemical odor) that will help kill mold spores living on the tree.  Make sure you allow it to dry out on an enclosed porch or garage. 

  • Shake the real tree off prior to placing it in the home. You can often find a tree shaker machine at tree farms and can use it before you pack up your tree to take home. An air compressor can be also helpful for blowing off pollen, dust, mold and dead needles. 

  • The same goes if you have any wreaths made of real pine, and even holly or mistletoe. If you notice it triggering your allergy or asthma symptoms,try to limit the amount of days the greenery is in the home. 

  • Using an air purifier in the same room as the real or artificial tree can help reduce mold levels.

  • Wear gloves and long sleeves while decorating your tree. This can help minimize getting a rash from touching the tree too much. 

Can Scented Candles Trigger My Allergies?

Absolutely! The holidays are linked to smells of pine, holly, seasonal berries and even baking. If you can’t make all these scents happen in real life, then you might think a scented candle is the next best thing. And it seems to also be a favorite last-minute holiday gift!

Unfortunately, scented candles can lead to allergy and asthma flare ups. Candles, especially scented ones, can release toxic soot and synthetic fragrance that can aggravate the respiratory tract.

Here are a few tips to consider when using scented candles this holiday season:

  • Try using non-toxic soy or beeswax candles. These candles typically burn longer and slower, and don't emit toxins when burned.

  • Unscented candles are just as beautiful as scented. Consider making the switch.

  • If you just can’t avoid using scented candles, always light them in well-ventilated areas. This way, the smell of the candle isn’t as strong, decreasing the amount of toxins breathed into your lungs. 

  • Never light candles in the bedroom of an allergy or asthma sufferer. The prolonged exposure can disrupt sleep and worsen symptoms.

  • Consider using electric candles. These holiday candles provide the same ambiance of a real candle, but without the fumes and smoke of a real candle.

Did You Know Open Fires Can Also Be A Trigger for Allergies and Asthma?

Sitting around the fireplace is an exciting tradition for many during the holiday season, but they produce smoke and fumes that can be an allergy or asthma trigger for many people and lead to shortness of breath or coughing. Open fires are a tradition for many during the holiday season, but they produce smoke and fumes that can be an allergy or asthma trigger for many people. Ask your relatives or friends to avoid burning wood in the fireplace.

Make these easy adjustments when using a fireplace, to avoid an allergic reaction:

  • Minimize your time around fireplaces, fire pits, or bonfires if you can help it. The smoke could lead to wheezing and other lung discomfort. Make an effort to not be downwind if outside.

  • Electric fireplaces can be a great alternative for creating that perfect holiday setting. These mimic the look and sounds of a real fire without any of the smoke or odors.

Staying Aware of Food Allergies during the Holidays

Holiday eating can be a huge risk for food allergy sufferers. Does the homemade stuffing have an ingredient no one is mentioning? What about your mom’s famous pecan pie–are there nuts in there? The holidays bring forth all kinds of new dishes, made with all kinds of ingredients, many of which are off limits for those with food allergies. In fact, holiday meals are the most likely to contain a large percentage of food allergens. This fear can go both ways, as it’s equally important to follow the same rules when attending a party and hosting a party.  

Here are some tips for navigating holiday meals:

  • When attending holiday parties, inform the host about your food allergy. Similarly, if you are hosting the event, make sure to ask guests if anyone has a food allergy. Better to be safe than sorry!

  • Always ask what’s in a dish before you eat it! For instance, you might think you know all the ingredients, but you can never be truly certain what’s in it if it’s homemade. Nowadays we need to be asking the ingredients in the ingredients!

  • Remind family and friends that even “one little bit” can be harmful. Especially when it comes to avoiding cross contact of food utensils, plates, etc.

  • And if you are preparing a holiday dish, do your research beforehand and make something that is food allergy friendly. Running low on good tasting allergy friendly dishes? Check out this article filled with the best holiday allergy-friendly dishes.

The holidays are here, and while there's plenty to enjoy in the season, there's also plenty of things to be cautious about. If you're one of the millions of Americans suffering from allergies and asthma, we can help! Aspire Allergy & Sinus we can help you treat and manage your allergies with long-term treatments! Schedule your appointment with one of our board-certified allergy specialists today!

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