On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and... Wheezy?
December 8th, 2011
10:55 AM ET

On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and... Wheezy?

Jack Frost isn't the only thing nipping at your nose this holiday season.

Although the allergy season has its peaks in spring and fall, the sights and smells of the holiday season can also be one big allergy Grinch. From Christmas trees to chestnuts, and all the dusty decorations that were kept in storage the other 11 months of the year, Yuletide cheer can leave many allergy-sensitive people looking like Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.

One such sufferer, Jessica Aguiar, says she's been allergic to pine trees since she was a child, so she's unable to purchase a "real" tree to display her holiday cheer.

Her symptoms include watery eyes, sneezing and - if she actually touches a tree - a skin rash. "Not the Christmas decorations I'd like to wear," she jokes.

Another, Orlando resident Kimberly Burton, is extremely sensitive to artificial-fragrances like those found in potpourri. Burton admits her shopping habits completely change from the time that mall holiday decorations go out in September until the stores are completely aired out in February.

"Unfortunately, it makes me dread holiday decorations coming out - and also forces me to get much of my shopping done well before the holidays are even here," she says. For example, her local grocery store of choice just stocked a display of potpourri near the freezer aisle so she has to choose another for the next couple of months.

Dr. Joseph Leija, a National Allergy Bureau-certified allergist at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, has several suggestions for sufferers. Following these tips can help ensure a sneeze-free season.

Avoid trigger ingredients.

Leija warns many traditional holiday recipes - including peanut brittle or the signature chestnuts on an open fire - call for tree nuts, which is one of the most common (and severe) food allergies.

He also says citrus - oranges, lemons, clementines and even grapefruits that are popular ingredients this time of year - can trigger oral allergic reactions.

Watch for the symptoms

The ultimate problem is winter allergy symptoms can often be confused with the common cold but are just as serious (and irksome) as their other season equivalents. Plus, their effects are often intensified since families spend more time indoors during the colder months.

Plan ahead

If you make a preparation list and check it twice, Dr. Leija says it's easy to keep your allergies on the "nice" list this year. If you're visiting friends or relatives make them aware of your needs ahead of time.

"Just as you would not drop in unexpectedly on someone, call ahead well in advance and politely share that a member of the family has allergies. Explain what the allergies are, to avoid being served peanut butter fudge if a nut allergy is present, or having Fido and Fluffy jump up in greeting," says Dr. Leija.

"No one wants to turn a pleasant holiday gathering into an ambulance visit to the home, or have to see someone cough and wheeze. Hosts will appreciate the heads up and the opportunity to plan in advance."

Avoid the real thing

As for the tree, opt for an artificial version: Dr. Leija urges allergy sufferers to use fake trees, plants, garland and the like to decorate the home without adding mold.

And if you miss the smell of "O Tannenbaum," many popular candle companies make pine-scented options - so long as your or any of your guests aren't allergic to synthetic fragrances as well.

Keep the humidifier on low

There's one final allergy attacker to watch out for in your home this holiday. Dr. Leija says that many people in the winter months use humidifiers and ultimately add too much moisture, which creates mold. To combat this, keep the humidity set to less than 50%.

Safely store for next year

And when the time comes to stow away all the merry embellishments for next year, store them - as well as your artificial tree - in large resealable plastic tubs to protect them from dust. That way next year you'll look forward to pulling them out of the attic, instead of dreading the start of the season.

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Filed under: Allergies

soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. TXJim

    "On Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and... Wheezy?"
    I thought this article was about Lil Wayne being a reindeer..

    December 8, 2011 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Poodles

    The only suggestion that is a step above no duh is the humidifier one. The rest of them? It's like someone who knows they're allergic to cats being told to avoid them. The entire list of suggestions could've been left out of the article.

    December 8, 2011 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hayley

      I agree, this article sucks.

      December 11, 2011 at 23:46 | Report abuse |
  3. Allergy Sufferer

    I agree that most of these are quite obvious. Seriously, peanut brittle and roasted chestnuts may contain nuts? Wow, thanks for the heads up. One thing that may actually be helpful is to be sure to change the tissue paper used when packing away ornaments, etc. Even in the plastic boxes, the paper can degrade over time and can cause allergy flares. We toss out all the old as we unpack each year, and re-pack with fresh tissue paper reclaimed as we open gifts. It is also available at the Dollar Tree. White is safest if there is any chance of moisture (colors can bleed onto decorations.)

    December 8, 2011 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Peanuts

      The tree nut one is worth mentioning as a hosting tip. Be cognizant that nut allergies are severe enough that even the slightest cross-contamination with peanut brittle on the buffet table can have serious outcomes.

      December 8, 2011 at 14:36 | Report abuse |
    • BioHzrd420

      Many peanut plants also process tree nuts and most people are not aware that even cross-contamination of peanuts with tree nuts can also induce allergies. It is not enough to just pick out the nuts or chestnuts. The food can't even touch or be near tree nuts. I know someone with such allergies and they carry spring-loaded Epi-pens in case they accidentally come into contact with these foods.

      December 8, 2011 at 14:58 | Report abuse |
  4. Rick

    I thought this article was about the Jefferson's Christmas

    December 8, 2011 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. MC in TX

    Huh? "... allergy season has its peaks in spring and fall ..." Many areas of the country have major peeks in January.

    December 8, 2011 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shirley

      there are other things you can do:::No more cats senipleg on the bed.Sorry, this is a small price to pay for allergy relief. If you get your symptoms under control by all means invite them back, but give yourself a break while you are trying to abate your symptoms. Keep them out of the bedroom altogether. Close the bedroom door to try and keep the cat allergen down in the bedroom. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary from allergens. So tempt your cats to sleep elsewhere during the day.Wash all bedding in 140-degree hot water at least twice monthly.This eliminates both dust mite and cat allergen (because we know some of you will still let them sneak up on the bed every now and then). Use HEPA air filters in rooms where your cats frequent.Since cat allergen is so difficult to remove, a good HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) air purifier is essential for cleaning the air in your home. HEPA air purifiers do require continued filter replacement, but when push comes to shove and you are in need of allergy relief, a good HEPA filter will do it for you. Vacuum up cat allergen with a high grade HEPA vacuum cleaner twice weekly.Vacuum walls, carpet, flooring, chairs, and furniture everywhere. Use the hand tools on the vacuum. Cat allergen particles are very small and invasive so you really have to do a thorough job. Good hand tools on your vacuum cleaner are the answer here. Also, installing a central vacuum will help pick up the rest. Use a vapor steam cleaner to clean your home.In addition to vacuuming, vapor steam cleaners are now proven by research to be extremely helpful in killing off the cat proteins/dander, which are embedded in your carpets and upholstery. Steam cleaners provide a chemical-free way of cleaning and killing dust mites, bacteria, mold spores and cat allergen. Wash your hands immediately after petting your cat and do not rub your eyes.Rubbing your eyes can result in itchy eyes for hours. Use a strong anti-bacterial soap to avoid this problem. Clean your cat.Some people wash their cats to reduce the amount of cat allergen that is released from their cat into the air, but research seems to be conflicting about its effectiveness. Allerpet, a well-known brand of liquid that reduces catallergen in the air, can be applied to your cats' coat and is available from your local veterinarian. Alternatively, you can get a micro fiber cloth and just damp rub down the cats' coats to rid it of visible dander. The majority of cats would prefer this to the highly dreaded bath. Confine your cats to one area of the house. I know this will be difficult for some people but this at least controls the cat allergens to a separate place where you can concentrate your air purifier and cleaning efforts. You DO NOT have to get rid of your CAT! If you do a good job with step numbers 1-9, your cat allergies should be significantly decreased. Keeping a cat when you have allergies takes a concerted effort, and is only for those who are nutty enough about their cats (like us), to go to all this trouble.

      March 3, 2012 at 23:27 | Report abuse |
  6. Chuck

    I just want to let y'all know...WHITE POWER!!

    December 8, 2011 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      You must be Norris, right?

      December 8, 2011 at 19:21 | Report abuse |
  7. The Grinch

    I thought this article was about people, like myself, who are allergic to the holiday spirit! I was disappointed to find out that they were talking about real allergies... Any home remedies for holiday spirit allergies?

    December 8, 2011 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Poodles

      Smash any nativity scenes you find, explain to people how Christmas is actually all based on a pagan holiday and not about the birth of the space ghost's son.

      December 8, 2011 at 18:07 | Report abuse |
    • NateFromIndiana

      I find I'm not allergic so much to the idea of people acting generously towards each other during the holiday season as I am to the way that so many folks seem to think that kindness towards their fellow man is something that expires after the eggnog runs out. Much as I'm sympathetic about how you must feel in the couple of weeks around the holiday, just remember that's also how I feel for the whole rest of the year while people are being snarky and rude to each other.

      December 8, 2011 at 19:46 | Report abuse |
    • The Grinch

      Poodles, I'm gonna try that and see if it relieves my symptoms 😀

      Nate, I actually agree with you. I'm not allergic to human kindness, only to the holiday. And I agree that being kindness should not be seasonal. I just don't like christmas because the temperatures are low, the days are short. Moreover, the music and decoration are cheesy and repeat every year. But perhaps what I dislike the most about christmas is the commercialization: The bombardment of advertisements and promotions that seem to start earlier every year...
      I complain that Thanksgiving goes unnoticed, but in reality that is perhaps what I like the most about it. It is christmas without the forced presents, fake cheerfulness and most of all, without corporate sponsorship.

      December 8, 2011 at 20:22 | Report abuse |
    • Mamudoon

      The Grinch – I laughed because my first thought was that I'm allergic to Christmas music! I get twitchy and angry and crazy when I'm exposed to it for more than about 30-45 seconds. My prescription is to use my iPod as needed. XD I bought it to use in my car and rarely use it anywhere else, but during the holiday season, which seems to be starting earlier every year, I can't go into stores without it. I don't like to look rude or unapproachable, but all bets are off once the Christmas music comes out. Really, it's for the good of everyone in the store. XD

      December 9, 2011 at 06:00 | Report abuse |
  8. Brian

    It took my mother 4 years to realize why I got sick every Christmas... I was 5 when she bought our first artificial tree, and have been fine ever since. Of course, visiting a home with a real tree is always unpleasant.

    December 8, 2011 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Mike

    We found the pesticides, herbacides, and insecticides from the Christmas tree caused us to get sick. We solved the problem by buying organic trees or getting our own in the forest because they don't have those chemicals. 500 pounds of these chemicals are sprayed on each acre of trees every year. The last chemical sprayed on the trees are a waxy pesticide emoliant that is done 3 months before harvest to prevent bugs being in the tree. When brought into the home the tree starts to off-gas these pollutants.

    December 8, 2011 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. augustghost

    riveting article

    December 8, 2011 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. OmegaX

    Grow up.

    December 8, 2011 at 17:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Opyt

    There must be a way to get rid of using blacks in articles so whites and other blacks won't comment on it.

    December 8, 2011 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. MashaSobaka

    My body has a violent reaction to some of the bigoted relatives I have to see during the holidays. Does that count as an allergy?

    December 8, 2011 at 18:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Marlye

    The invisible man has a bad case of pencildickinitis.

    December 8, 2011 at 19:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. jj

    I'm allergic to just about everything else, but I do love the holidays!

    December 8, 2011 at 19:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Bob

    Allergic to "pine trees"? Try a spruce or fir. Or is this just a poorly written article?

    December 8, 2011 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. txwtch67

    I'm allergic to the holiday season in general. Our puritan ancestors actually refused to celebrate it. That was back when Christmas was not a solemn holiday but more of a "mardi gras" affair. It came back into vogue and in the mid 1800's it was decided it should be celebrated Dec 25. That's why in the bible it says that Jesus was born harvest time, which would make it more of late Aug to early Oct. I'd much rather spend the holiday volunteering at a homeless shelter, spending time with family, not caving into the commercial mindset. You should be in the "holiday spirit" all year, not just some date on the calendar. Buy local, buy only what you need and be more thoughtful that's what I say. Oh and if you don't want to see your inlaws, don't. Say your allergic to them. 😛 occupychristmas.com

    December 8, 2011 at 22:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Sandy

    The value of this article is that some poor allergy sufferer's family might read it and finally understand that their relative has a medical problem and isn't being picky or troublesome and that it's not all in their head (in the mental sense, of course; they have plenty of problems in their nasal cavities)..I'm not allergic to Christmas, but I'm so allergic to other things that I need four allergy shots every few weeks. Allergies are not a small inconvenience; they can make your life miserable.

    December 9, 2011 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. gino

    i needed that :O-)

    December 9, 2011 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Bah!

    I am actually one of the people they refer to and it's terrible. I react to all conifer trees as well as cinnamon and nutmeg. There was nothing useful in this article though. Obviously, when going to a Christmas party, I don't expect the host(ess) to go out of their way for me. Just realize that we might not stay long, and don't take offense when I don't eat the pie or drink the cider! And no, I won't even hold it to be polite. Just breathing the fumes is enough to react.

    December 11, 2011 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. cosmicsnoop

    "Just as you would not drop in unexpectedly on someone, call ahead well in advance and politely share that a member of the family has allergies. Explain what the allergies are, to avoid being served peanut butter fudge if a nut allergy is present, or having Fido and Fluffy jump up in greeting," says Dr. Leija. WHAT!? If you're coming to MY house and are bringing demands, then don't come. If you have a problem with my dog or the fact that no one in my family is allergic and we have a love of nuts and they're everywhere in my home during this season, YOU need to stay away. I'm not adjusting my merriment to accommodate your problems for your brief visit.

    December 12, 2011 at 07:17 | Report abuse | Reply
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