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Six Ways You Might Unknowingly Make Your Guests Sick this Holiday Season

Allergy and Asthma image

The holiday season can gift you with more than you’ve wished for if you have allergies and asthma. Holiday traditions, such as Christmas trees, menorahs, and poinsettia plants, can cause symptoms. Those hosting holiday gatherings can also unknowingly present guests with the gift of sneeze.

“Allergy and asthma sufferers are bound to come across triggers this holi­day season,” says allergist Michael Foggs, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. “By ensuring your home isn’t allergen laden, you can help guests relax, feel great, and have an enjoyable season.”

Here are six tips to help you have the least amount of allergens in your home when you invite guests over during the holiday season.

1 Meet Fido, Dusty, and Mold
Dan­der, saliva, and urine from animals can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks in guests. It’s best to clean your home thoroughly before guests arrive, ban pets from upholstered furniture, and keep your pets in another room while visitors are present. Don’t forget about the other “pets” that might be in your home, including dust and mold spores. Vacuuming and cleaning hard surfaces can help remove dust mites, and replacing your air filter will help with both dust and dander. Be sure to also clean any visible mold from the bathroom and kitchen, as well as from the rubber seal on your refrigerator.

2 Your Home Smells (Achoo!) Lovely
Candles and plug-in air fresheners may seem like a great way to freshen up your home, but they can be harmful. About one-third of people with asthma report health problems related to air fresheners, which contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Store the candles, and let the scents from the oven provide natural aromas.

About one-third of people with asthma report health problems related to air fresheners.

3 Cheers to an Allergic Reaction
Breaking out the bubbly might seem like a great way to toast the holi­days. That is until one of your guests has an upset stomach, trouble breathing, and itchy eyes. Reactions to alcohol can be triggered by naturally occurring ingredients in beer and wine, including barley, ethanol, grapes, histamine, hops, malt, oats, tryptamine, tyramine, wheat, and yeast. Try toasting with a holiday-inspired punch or sparkling juice instead.

4 Spice Isn’t Always So Nice
Spices may be a key ingredient in nearly every holiday dish, but they may also cause your guests to sneeze and wheeze. Spice allergy is responsible for an estimated 2 percent of food allergies. Common spice allergy triggers include cinnamon and garlic, but anything from black pepper to vanilla can cause a re­action. Before you prepare your meal, check with guests about any food allergies they might have, including sensitivities to spice.

5 Share Cheer, Not Viruses
The flu season coincides with the holi­day season, lasting from October to March. Protect yourself from giving and receiving the virus by getting a flu shot and washing your hands regu­larly. Have an egg allergy? Allergists still recommend getting the flu shot because the vaccinations contain such a low amount of egg protein that it likely won’t cause an allergic reaction. Play it safe and have your allergist administer the shot and monitor you for 30 minutes to ensure there is no reaction.

6 Don’t Be a Chatty Cathy
Save long conversations for once you see your guests in person. Cell phones, including smartphones and flip models, can contain allergy-causing cobalt and nickel. These metals can cause redness, swelling, itching, eczema, blistering, skin lesions, and occasional scarring. For allergy fighters who are glued to their phones, allergists advise opting for plastic phone cases, wireless earpieces, and clear film screens to decrease allergic reactions.


Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology,

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, Winter 2013-2014.