‘Tis the Season to be…Allergic?
It’s that time of year! Holiday gatherings (socially distanced of course), indulgent delicacies, outdoor greenery brought indoors, and dusty decorations that have been stored in boxes or bins. Yes, tis the season to be allergic indeed!
Do the holidays bring you the gift of a stuffy nose, red cheeks, itchy skin, or a relentless headache? Your holiday traditions could be the cause of unwelcome allergy symptoms. Hopefully, you will be able to identify annoying allergens and head them off before they cause you unwanted discomfort.
Oh what fun it is to look forward to your favorite “once a year” holiday treats on the menu! The problem is, many adults don’t even realize they have food allergies (unless the allergy is deemed severe).
It is estimated that 32 million Americans suffer from food allergies! With numbers like these, it’s fair to assume that holiday treats may be responsible for upper respiratory issues and skin irritation – maybe even shortness of breath and dizziness. Adults typically react negatively to peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts), and shellfish.
Food allergies may be the culprit for your irritated skin, red face, hives, eczema, or stuffy nose. What you might find surprising is that common allergens like nuts are not the only food items causing reactions – processed meats and wine can be irritants too.
Nitrates in Processed Meats
Nothing says the holidays like a beautifully designed charcuterie board. Loaded with perfectly placed cured meats, cheeses, and nuts, this edible work of art is also loaded with sodium nitrate. Sodium nitrate is a chemical food preservative found in meats like salami and other processed meats. Adverse reactions could include a headache or hives. You may want to eat cured meats in moderation and adequately hydrate with water.
Some of you are NOT going to want to hear this…or admit it, BUT, it is possible to be allergic to wine! Well…not wine per se, but the ingredients that make wine. And women, it gets worse for you. It appears that women are twice as likely to experience allergy-like symptoms after just one glass of wine. This includes nasal congestion, itching, flushed skin, and increased heart rate.
The allergy symptoms may come from proteins found in grapes, yeast, bacteria, or sulfites (food preservative). Unfortunately for red wine lovers, red wine is mostly responsible for unwanted allergic reactions.
Is there an alternative for wine lovers? Maybe. It is often suggested and widely accepted that organic wine does not cause as severe an allergic response as traditionally processed wine. It’s important to note that organic doesn’t necessarily mean chemical free, just fewer sulfites and potentially less harmful chemicals. If you suffer from a stuffy nose, dizziness, and headache after drinking red wine, then organic wine may be a great compromise.
Real Christmas Trees and Decorative Greenery
If you experience allergy symptoms during the holidays, be suspicious of your traditional holiday decorations.
Have you ever heard of Christmas Tree Syndrome? Yep, it’s a real thing. In fact, it is the very reason that so many people suffer from nasal congestion and other upper respiratory symptoms from year to year. Real trees carry mold spores, thus contributing to indoor mold.
There’s good news for those of you who cannot live without a real tree. Try to pick a fir, spruce, or cypress tree and give it a good washing before setting it up indoors (dry it out beforehand).
Improper Storage of Artificial Christmas Trees
If you’re allergic to real Christmas trees, an artificial tree is a smart choice. What matters most is how you store your artificial tree.
The first thing to consider when taking down your Christmas tree is the pre-storage condition. Give your tree a solid vacuuming before storing it. Take all the ornaments and lights off before using the vacuum attachment to clean the branches.
Next, store your clean Christmas tree in a large tree bag, as opposed to the original box.
Finally, find a cool, dry place to store your tree.
You won’t regret taking these extra steps to keeping your artificial tree clean and free from dust.
The idea of scented ornaments is fantastic! Your home can smell like a freshly cut tree without the added allergens. But, the opposite is true. Scented ornaments are chemically enhanced and release VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into your breathing space. People typically complain of headaches and upper respiratory issues related to scented decorative items.
Tips for Avoiding Allergies During the Holiday Season
- Consider hosting a party so you can set the menu
- Avoid foods that are high in sodium, sugar, or preservatives
- BYOB…or wine to parties to ensure you drink a beverage that agrees with you
- Consider a real tree recommended for allergy sufferers and wash the branches and trunk before bringing it into the house (dry it out first)
- Vacuum an artificial tree before setting it up in your living space
- Avoid scented decorations and plug ins
Identify your potential allergens early on so you can enjoy every minute of the holiday season. After all, ‘Tis the season to be…anything but allergic!