December comes alive with the sights, sounds and scents of the holiday. One beloved way to make your home feel cozy and festive at this time of year is to light up a candle that smells of pine trees, gingerbread or pumpkin. But while candles smell nice, about one in five people report reacting to candles with symptoms that include sneezing, a runny or stuffed-up nose, itchy eyes, sinus problems, head pain, hives or other skin rashes, coughing or wheezing.
Synthetic smells comprise hundreds of different chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions. You may be fine with one scent, but others may send you into allergic misery. Trying to unravel which chemical is problematic for you can be nearly impossible.
If candles are compromising your health, but you still enjoy the ambience they provide, consider the following tips:
- Go scentless or flame-free. If you love the look of a burning candle but don’t want the scents that can stir up symptoms, opt for non-scented candles. You can also choose flameless LED candles.
- Try beeswax candles. They are free of many of the chemicals found in standard paraffin candles. They also burn brighter and last longer. Note that paraffin is the distillation from petroleum or shale, so breathing it in has been compared to inhaling fumes from a car engine. Soy candles are another natural alternative. Be prepared to pay more for soy and beeswax candles, but they may prove to be a worthwhile investment to maintain your health.
- Try aromatherapy candles scented by plant-based extracts (rather than synthetic scents).
- Choose natural wicks. Select candles with a natural cotton wick.
Avoiding allergenic candles may be relatively simple, but if your struggle with allergies is having a significant impact on your life, consider allergy treatment. Your physician can order an allergy test kit and gauge your sensitivity to common allergen extracts. Your physician may prescribe sublingual immunotherapy (oral allergy drops) or subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). Both can help desensitize your body to allergens in the environment that make you feel miserable.