People with allergies can suffer more symptoms during the holiday season. Allergies spike often at this time of year because people are spending more time indoors, and are exposed to more allergens than they have all year, or they have welcomed new additions to their families, like dogs or cats.
The Christmas season brings excitement and joy, but it may also expose people to allergens that can cause allergic symptoms or even anaphylaxis.
Caution should be taken with both real and artificial Christmas trees as these both can carry dust and pollen.
Foods, drinks, exposure to latex, and kissing can pose problems that result in allergic reactions during this holiday season.
Allergic reactions can be treated with a variety of conservative measures, including avoidance.
Formal allergy testing may be necessary in some instances for specific populations.
There are several precautions that can be taken to avoid allergy flare-ups.
What is the most common Christmas allergy?
It's most likely to be the Christmas tree. Christmas trees are usually pine, fir, hemlock, or spruce. But it is not an allergy to the tree itself that people usually suffer from, it is the exposure to mold spores or dust and tree pollen. Also, the tree could have been treated with chemicals such as terpenes which give your home a wonderful Christmas tree smell, and those chemicals can wreak havoc on some individuals.
Artificial or plastic Christmas trees have likely been hidden away in closets, attics, or garages. They are notorious for carrying dust, dust mites, mold spores, and other potential allergens.
Both types of Christmas trees can cause runny and stuffy noses, wheezing, coughing, itchy and watery eyes, and coughing. Some people who are not usually prone to allergic symptoms can still have symptoms because of the sheer number of allergens in the tree.
Some people can develop a skin rash after coming into contact with Christmas trees or wreaths.
Here are some suggestions:
Ask the Christmas tree vendor to shake the loose debris from the tree to dislodge some of the mold, dust, and excess or loose needles. Some people will use a leaf blower or air compressor.
Because mold can grow, limit the amount of time the tree is displayed in the house.
It may be a good idea to use a water hose to rinse the tree or wreaths and decorations (either real or artificial) and allow these to dry prior to bringing them into the house. Of course, this may not be possible in colder climates.
In some cases, using a dilute chlorine bleach solution can kill mold spores on trees and wreaths.
When the season is over, store artificial trees in dry, cool spaces and seal them into plastic bags or boxes.
Check stored Christmas items periodically to prevent insect or rodent infestation.
Wearing a mask is something we all became accustomed to during the pandemic and that may be a good idea when cleaning or setting up the tree and decorations.
Wash or dust ornaments and decorations.
Beware of introducing unusual fragrances into the home, particularly scented candles, as they can cause allergic symptoms.
What other allergic triggers can be avoided during Christmas?
This is a time of year that festive celebrations can include unusual food recipes with varied ingredients. Some Christmas dishes may include surprise ingredients such as nuts, peanut butter, or shellfish. A good example is Marzipan which contains almonds and egg whites. Another one is Mortadella spiced meat which can include pistachios.
Cross-contamination of foods is common during this time of year. Be prepared to ask questions and use oils and utensils carefully. Even exposure to some food allergens can occur through skin contact or in the aerosol from cooking.
Like foods, various drink mixtures can cause allergic reactions. There can be sulfites in wine, pine nuts in craft beer, almonds in gin drinks, dairy in cream liquors, egg whites in some cocktails like Whiskey Sours, and gluten in beers.
Some items for Christmas will include balloons, eyelash glue, latex gloves, rubber bands, and other products that can cause latex allergy symptoms in certain people.
Also, those individuals with latex allergies may experience cross-reaction with exposure to bananas, avocados, chestnuts, and kiwi fruit.
How do you avoid allergic reactions at Christmas?
The best way to avoid allergic reactions is avoidance, but that is not always possible. Minimizing exposure to dust, mold, and other allergens during this season is the most practical advice.
Those individuals who suffer from significant allergic symptoms may try the following treatments during the holiday season:
- Nasal saline or irrigation.
- Non-drowsy antihistamines.
- Allergy drops for the eyes.
- Nasal steroid sprays.
- For skin rashes, topical hydrocortisone, or antihistamine creams.
- Avoid stressful situations that can exacerbate allergic symptoms.
Formal allergy testing and treatment may be necessary if conservative measures are not effective.
Useful products to have in the house during the holiday season may include epinephrine injections and medical alert jewelry for certain highly allergic individuals.
- Ohio State University. What is Christmas tree syndrome?