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How to Avoid Common Holiday Allergies

How to Avoid Common Holiday AllergiesFrom Christmas trees to fruitcakes, the Holidays abound with allergens. We here at achoo! ALLERGY hope to help you educate yourself, avoid allergens, and have a happy, allergy-free holidays!

Christmas Tree Allergies

A reader recently wrote to us about her Christmas tree allergies:

Last year, for the first time in my life, I suffered from severe Christmas tree allergies - I had running nose, itchy eyes and asthma attacks during the whole month of December, but never thought about the Christmas tree and allergy connection. In January, after I threw my Christmas tree away, I got better immediately. Then Bingo! I realized what was causing my allergies. My doctor told me, never to buy "real" Christmas trees again.

Now, I am facing a big challenge. This year, I am going to spend Christmas with my family in upstate New York. When I told them about my allergies, they just told me that I was overreacting and that I was just hysteric. I tried to explain to them about my allergies, but they just ignore it. They read somewhere.. that it's only Christmas trees bought at nurseries, that can give allergies, because they've been outside for a long time, etc.

My ever-so-clever sister told me to relax and enjoy Christmas, because they (my family) are going to find a tree in the woods, and cut it themselves, so there shouldn't be a risk of getting a tree with mold, since it's been out in the nature. Could you please help me with finding more information? I really do not want to spend Christmas in the hospital! Thank you very much for your help.

Christmas trees that are cut months beforehand and stored in cramped, damp areas definitely have a higher chance of aggravating mold allergies. However, mold can also grow on live trees out in nature. Have someone else spray down the tree with a hose outside and let it dry in the sun before bringing it inside.

If you know that you're allergic to mold, you could also spray the tree with a fungicide but be aware that such chemicals (especially the toxic variety) can also aggravate allergies and cause other respiratory problems. We offer M-1 Sure Cote, a clear, non-toxic, odorless mold-resistant coating that will kill mold and prevent future growth. If you decide to use Sure Cote, I suggest letting the coating dry before bringing the tree inside.

Pollen from Christmas trees is normally not a big problem for allergy sufferers (since the pines and firs found at most Christmas tree lots pollinate in the spring), but mountain cedar trees pollinate in late November and early December, so if you chop down your own mountain cedar tree, then the pollen could be troublesome - especially since one person out of every 10 is to allergic mountain cedar pollen. The main problem, however, is mold that enters the home with the tree.

We recommend artificial trees for people with mold allergies, but even artificial trees can aggravate allergies. Artificial trees tend to collect dust and mold since they're in storage for most of the year. If you have an artificial tree, store it in a cool, dry place, and wipe it down or wash it before putting it up. To avoid exposure to allergens, wear gloves and an allergy relief mask and wash your hands afterwards.

Perhaps the best way to avoid allergens from a Christmas tree is employ a quality air purifier, which will rid the air of pollen, mold, dust, and chemicals. If you're allergic to your Christmas tree, you should also stay away from it when it's being decorated or otherwise jostled.

Holiday Candles & Air Pollution

Candles, especially scented candles, can release toxic soot that travels into the lungs. Most candles are made from petrochemicals that can contain carcinogens, neurotoxins, and reproductive toxins. The EPA found that candles may release benzene, toluene, lead, phenol, and other chemicals. Soy candles and beeswax candles are safer and less likely to trigger allergies.

Michael Osborne of the EPA says, "If I were someone who had a health problem like asthma, and I were looking for things to prevent aggravating respiratory problems, candles and incense are two things I would seriously consider getting rid of."

Food Allergies & the Holiday Season

Fruitcake Beware the Fruitcake! You never know what ingredients may be inside this popular holiday treat (but most fruitcakes contain some sort of nuts). Don't be afraid to ask about possible allergens, and if you're taking food to a party or gathering, perhaps you could bring an allergen-free dish. Visit the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network's Monthly Recipe Page for some allergen-free holiday recipes. Make sure everyone knows about small children who have allergies. Food Allergy T-Shirts for children let others know about their food allergies.

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