Holiday Foods And Decorations May Cause Allergic Reactions
Posted: December 15, 2012
According to Kansas State University Cooperative Extension, many people experience an increase in allergic symptoms during the holidays, often in one of four areas: skin allergies; nose and sinus area inflammation; sinus headaches and sinus infections; and chronic cough or asthma.
Some holiday allergy-causing agents include:
* Live Christmas trees: Real Christmas trees themselves are rarely the culprits with allergies, but molds or pollens are often attached to branches or needles. Bill Loucks, Kansas Forest Service conservation forester, recommends spraying the tree with water before bringing it into the house. Some evergreens, particularly junipers and cedar, may be pollinating even in winter. Look for a yellowish tinge on the trunk and needles.
* Artificial Trees: Artificial trees are a potential source of mold and dust caused by improper storage. They should be dusted outside before decorating, with a hair dryer set on cool. Additional features, such as sprayed-on snow, can aggravate symptoms.
* Christmas Decorations: Ornaments stored from previous years can become coated with dust and mold. To prevent the buildup, thoroughly clean and dry decorations. When packing, seal them in plastic bags and store in airtight containers.
* Food Allergies: Common holiday foods may contain ingredients which cause allergic reactions. The top allergy-causing foods include shrimp, soy-based foods and tree nuts. If you are allergic to certain foods, inform family and friends of special dietary restrictions so they may prepare dishes which are safe to eat. The best way to prevent reactions is to avoid the foods.
* Mold Allergies: Mold can flourish indoors if the humidity is too high. Depending on comfort levels and minimal allergy symptoms, indoor humidity should be kept below 50 percent with a dehumidifier.
* Heating Vents: Clean or replace furnace filters to prevent accumulated dust and debris -from being distributed throughout your home.
* Potpourri: Limit or eliminate scented candles, potpourri, air fresheners, plant arrangements and holiday baking with strong odors that can cause discomfort for people with asthma.
Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Extension in Lackawanna County.