A little advance planning goes a long way to keeping everyone safe and healthy.
Lots of people are looking forward to the holidays this year because, after skipping a year due to COVID, they’ll once again be able to gather with family and friends. You may be looking forward to holiday traditions and good food, but those with allergies and asthma might be concerned about dust-covered decorations, pet dander, food allergies, and making sure they bring all their medications if they’re traveling.
“In addition to concerns about COVID-19, those with allergies and asthma sometimes have an added layer of anxiety because they need to always be thinking about allergy and asthma triggers that can cause serious symptoms,” says allergist Mark Corbett, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI). “With a bit of preparation ahead of your events, you can make sure everyone is safe from allergy and asthma flares, in addition to possible COVID-19 exposure.”
Below are five tips from ACAAI to help you ensure a safe and happy holiday season:
- Send socially-distanced air hugs and kisses – This year as last, your family will need to determine how close is “too close” when it comes to delivering holiday hugs and kisses. If everyone in your family is healthy and vaccinated against COVID, you may be good to go. The CDC has guidelines for what precautions you should take to keep everyone in tip top shape. In addition to a COVID vaccine or booster, consider a flu vaccine this year. The flu can make asthma symptoms more severe, so allergists recommend anyone with asthma get a flu vaccine.
- Re-think any flame that produces smoke – Whether it’s Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa, holiday celebrations often include candles and sitting next to a cozy fire in the fireplace. While a roaring fire is lovely, smoke of any kind poses risks for those with asthma. Many people like to use holiday-themed aerosols like air fresheners and artificial snow, as well as potpourri and other scents. While not technically allergic triggers, aerosols can be irritants to already inflamed airways.
- Everything looks delicious! – No holiday celebration is complete without wonderful food – but that leaves the door open to the possibility of food allergens. While you no doubt keep track of what foods you and your family members might be allergic to, you also need to let your hosts know of potential problem foods. Bring a dish or two 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. If you’re eating out or at a friend’s house, make sure to have your epinephrine auto injectors with you.
- Ever heard of a tree allergy? – As lovely as holiday trees and decorations can be, some people are allergic to the terpene found in the sap of trees or are bothered by the mold that can sometimes be found in trees and wreaths. Artificial trees can solve the problem, but you need to clean off dust if your Christmas decorations or Hanukkah menorahs are stored all year in the attic with no protection. Dust allergies can hit year-round.
- Make a plan. Stick with it. – Chances are pretty good you’ll run into some of your triggers as you’re out enjoying the season: dusty decorations, perfumed colleagues, pets you’ve never met and moldy leaves still on the ground. Take your medications before you leave the house, and work with your allergist if your allergies or asthma symptoms seem particularly bad. And if your allergist has prescribed an epinephrine auto injector, always carry two with you.
Don’t let allergies or asthma ruin your fun this holiday season. Find solutions with an 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.
Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), November 2021