Let it snow, but don’t let your allergies be “frightful”

12 Dec 2017- Winter holidays can certainly be “the most wonderful time of the year.” But they can also be full of expectations for “picture-perfect” dinners, lots of time with family members, and too much money spent on gifts that may never get used. Add that allergy and asthma symptoms can crop up when you least expect them and you’ll want to make sure you’re ready for whatever comes along.

“People may not want to admit their allergies and asthma interfere with their holiday fun, but the truth is, symptoms can occur any time of the year,” says allergist Bradley Chipps, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “If you keep in mind some simple tips, you can prepare yourself – and your nose and eyes – for allergy symptoms that may crop up during the holidays.”

Consider these 5 tips for keeping the holidays happy and healthy:

  1. Holiday season means flu season – From October through March, many people get and give the flu. Getting a flu vaccine helps prevent you and your loved ones from catching the virus. Another tip for avoiding the flu is to wash your hands regularly and thoroughly.  Although some people who have egg allergy have been told not to get the flu shot, the vaccine is safe as long as you take precautions. If you’re allergic to eggs, get your flu vaccine in a location equipped to handle anaphylaxis – a severe allergic reaction.
  2. When a bit of the bubbly leaves you feeling poorly – You may not realize that it’s possible to have an intolerance to alcohol that shows up as a stuffy nose, headache and/or flushed skin immediately after drinking. Not all symptoms have to be present – it can be one, or a combination. The reaction, while not an allergy, is most often seen after drinking red wine and alcohol that has color. The only way to prevent the reaction is to avoid alcohol.
  3. Button up your overcoat – Even if the weather outside is chilly, you’ll still probably want to do fun winter activities like sledding, skating and building snowmen. If you have asthma, know that very cold, dry air might trigger your symptoms. If you’re spending time outside, cover your mouth and nose with a scarf or face mask – especially if you’ll be exercising. If the temps are below freezing, consider moving your exercise routine inside.
  4. What’s in that fruitcake? – If winter holidays mean gathering at family and friends, know that you might have to deal with foods to which family members could be allergic. It’s important to know what your food allergies are, as well as those of your family members, and to alert hosts to potential problem foods. Bring a dish (or dishes) to share that are safe for you, and if you are hosting, consider letting your guests know what is in the dishes you’re serving.
  5. Oh (ah ah choo!) Christmas tree – Christmas trees are beautiful, but they can cause sneezing and wheezing. Some people have contact skin allergies to a substance called terpene, found in the sap of trees. And some live trees still have mold spores and pollen on them, which when carried into the house can cause nasal allergies to flare. Take time to rinse off live trees before you bring them in. If you have an artificial tree and decorations that you use every year, they can accumulate dust and mold. Clean them before using them again this year.

If you suffer from allergies or asthma, see a board-certified allergist. Allergists are trained to diagnose and treat your symptoms, and to work with you to create an individual action plan. To find an allergist in your area, use the ACAAI allergist locator tool.