Christmas Allergies

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During the holiday season many people experience an increase in their allergic symptoms, often in these four areas:

  • Skin allergy such as eczema and urticaria (hives)
  • Rhino sinusitis, which is an inflammation in the nose and sinus
  • Area. This is often associated with dark circles and bags under the eyes.
  • Sinus headaches and sinus infections
  • Chronic cough, bronchitis, and asthma

Colds, flu, and bronchitis that occur year after year, at the same time of year, are often caused by allergy. There are a number of reasons why allergy symptoms occur around the holiday season. After recognizing that the symptoms are due to allergies, it is possible to take steps to decrease symptoms and have a healthier and more fun holiday!

Christmas Decorations

Live Christmas trees and live garland give off a fresh woodsy odour to which many people are allergic. Commercially sold trees may also have been sprayed to help them stay green. This chemical spray may cause respiratory symptoms. Hosing down a live tree with water before bringing it in may help.

Artificial trees and Christmas decorations are often dusty, and therefore a source of house dust mites. Artificial trees and decorations should be dusted outside before decorating the tree. Use a hand held hair dryer set on cool.

After the tree has been decorated, a small room air filter can be used in the vicinity of the tree to keep down the dust in the air. Dust mite control sprays can often be used on trees while they are on display. Paper and newspaper should not be used for wrapping decorations.

They may harbour papers mites which can lead to allergy rashes the next year when the decorations are unpacked.

Low Humidity

Many people develop respiratory problems because of low humidity created by winter heating systems, especially forced air heat and wood fires. Replace moisture in the air with a humidifier (which must be maintained to prevent mould and bacteria growth), an inch of fresh water in the sink and bath tubs, or a pot of water on the stove. Drink more water to prevent dry, scaly skin and to keep your nose, sinuses and lungs from becoming so dry that you become susceptible to sinus headaches and sinus and lung infections. Caffeine and alcohol have a diuretic affect and may actually remove water from your system. Just plain water is best.


Many people use potpourri during the holiday season. This is a common source of allergy symptoms. Many people are sensitive to the floral odours and allergic to the mould spores that may come from dried vegetation in potpourri.

Solution: A homemade potpourri of cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla or peppermint flavouring. Avoid scented candles as these can also trigger allergy symptoms and even an asthma attack.


Numerous individuals are allergic to tiny mould spores not only in potpourri and dried flowers, but also from leaf moulds growing on recently fallen, decaying leaves. In damp, rainy weather the mould spore count is higher. Many persons with mould spore allergy will have worse symptoms just before and just after a rain storm, when the mould spore count is particularly high.

Solution: If you must rake leaves, wear a mask. People whose eyes itch when raking leaves may want to wear a pair of swimmers goggles to protect their eyes from the allergy causing mould spores.

Wood Burning Stoves and Fireplaces

In addition to lowering humidity, wood burning stoves and fireplaces may give off smoke that irritates the respiratory tract.

Solution: Make certain there is adequate draft for the stove or fireplace. The person with allergies should not be in the room if a fire is being built. People allergic to moulds may have an allergy attack when dried wood is brought in that has mould in the bark.

Solution: Put the wood directly into the fire.
Do not stack wood in the house. Some persons allergic to tree pollen may also be allergic to the wood and suffer symptoms when it is burned.

Solution: The hard wood people are least likely to react to is oak.

Allergy Foods

People may eat many different foods during the holiday season than the rest of the year. Allergy to some of these may cause headaches, rashes, and respiratory symptoms. Some holiday foods may contain additives such as a type of chemicals called sulphites which is used as a preservative. Some examples are alcoholic beverages, bottled or canned sauces, dips such as guacamole or onion dip, dried fruit, and green vegetables.

Ingestion of sulphites in sensitive people can be dangerous. Deaths have even occurred from sensitivity to this food additive. Luckily, due to food labelling laws, now all prepared foods must be labelled if they contain sulphites. This may be written as sulphite, metasulfita, bisulfite, or sulphur dioxide.

If you believe you have sulphite sensitivity, read your labels carefully during the holidays and all year long also.

Christmas Gifts

Animal Dander Allergy

How sad it is for a child to get a new puppy, kitty, rabbit, or guinea pig for Christmas, only to learn soon after that the child is allergic to it. Many children have had their first asthma attack only shortly after receiving such a precious gift.

Children who grow up with pets do appear to be happier and healthier as adults, as long as they are not allergic to the pet. If there is any tendency in the family towards allergy, a fur bearing pet is best avoided. At a minimum, an outdoor pet is better than an indoor pet.

In cold weather, as around holidays, cats and dogs that are normally outside may be inside the home more. Persons allergic to animals may decrease their symptoms if the animal is kept in only a small area of the home, preferably where there is no carpet. Not allowing fur bearing pets on furniture and in bedrooms decreases allergy symptoms.

Both dogs and cats can be bathed at least monthly if they remain in the house. Yes, kitty can be bathed also. Many people allergic to cats are allergic to the saliva cats leave on their fur when they lick themselves. A recent study showed that cats that were bathed monthly may stop producing the agent to which their masters are often allergic within a few months of beginning regular bathing.

Children’s Stuffed Animals and Furry Toys

Avoid stuffed animals with real fur. Stuffed animals may be filled with dusty foam strips or mouldy ground coconut shells which can cause allergy symptoms. All stuffed animals should be polyester filled and washable.


The affect of stress on overall health is well known. The immune system is powerfully affected by stress. Holiday stress from celebrations, over eating, alcohol consumption, and

interruption of normal sleep patterns can worsen allergy and asthma symptoms. Getting regular rest and slowing down on the pace of holiday celebration promotes good health to help us enjoy the holiday season.

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