Keep the Holidays from Stirring up Your Allergies

If you’ve struggled with allergies for a significant amount of time, you probably know how to manage them quite well. But what happens when other people’s actions threaten your well-controlled allergies?

This can happen during the holidays when well-meaning friends, family members, and co-workers express their holiday zeal with candles, scented air fresheners, mold-laden wreaths, and food items containing allergens.

Keep the Holidays from Stirring up Your Allergies

(monicore / pixabay)

So how do you prioritize your health without making a fuss? Tactful but clear communication can go a long way. Here’s how to put it into practice with different holiday-related allergy triggers.

Candles. ‘Tis the season for candles scented with pumpkin spice, gingerbread, and pine. But while some people swear by these candles to boost the holiday ambiance, one in five people reports a negative reaction to scented candles. The synthetic chemical cocktails that give these candles their smell can stir up your allergies, leading to sniffling, sneezing, coughing, and headaches.

A solution: If your co-worker just loves scented candles, let them know that they’re affecting your health and offer to work out a compromise. Perhaps you could talk to your boss about creating a candle-free working area and move to that area. Or maybe your co-worker could burn the candles in another part of the office. If you show that you’re willing to make concessions that work for both of you, it will go down better than simply telling your co-workers to stop what they’re doing.

If you’re invited to a party hosted by a candle-loving friend, be proactive and let them know in advance that you react poorly to these scents. Offer, instead, to bring a candle that won’t stir up your allergies. Here are some options:

  • Single-scent candles: Burning candles with just one scent (rather than a combination of scents) may allow you to find one that won’t stir up your allergies. Bringing that candle to the party will allow your host to have the ambiance of a scented candle without setting your health back.
  • Beeswax or soy: These candles are more expensive, but they emit far fewer chemicals than the more common paraffin candles. Paraffin is a derivative of petroleum so its emissions, like car fumes, aren’t made to be gentle on the body.
  • Aromatherapy candles: These candles are scented with plant-based extracts instead of the synthetic scents that trigger your allergies.

Christmas trees. Both fake and real ones can stir up allergies. Real trees carry pollen and mold spores. So get a fake one, right? Not so fast! Fake trees can gather dust and mold while sitting in storage and rev up your allergies, too. Wreaths can do the same.

There’s a large contingent of allergic people who start feeling miserable every holiday season on account of their Christmas trees—so many, in fact, that there’s a name for this condition: Christmas Tree Syndrome.

Solution: Understandably, the people you live with may want a Christmas tree to mark the season. It’s not fair to deprive them of that, but it’s also not fair that you have to go through the holiday season with allergies. Different kinds of live trees—like a fir tree or a Leyland cypress—tend to be less allergenic than pines. Hosing them down or blowing them off before you bring them inside can help. A good soaking down can also eliminate some of the allergens that accumulate on fake trees.

You can also opt for a different type of tree altogether. Pinterest is alive with alternatives—trees made from pallet boards, plywood, upholstered plywood, or plywood covered in wrapping paper. A large styrofoam cone wrapped in garden twine. A painting of a Christmas tree that you can attach holiday cards to. Good communication with your family, or your co-workers if you’re dealing with a Christmas tree in the workplace, can lead to a satisfying compromise for all.

Food. The holidays are all about food, which isn’t the best news if you have food allergies. A catered office party can leave you with few good eating solutions. Same with a holiday potluck at a friend’s home. There’s no telling what allergens could be hanging out in casseroles, salads, and desserts made in other people’s kitchens.

Solution: For office parties, let the party planners know in advance about your allergies. If the plan is to go to a restaurant, suggest a few restaurants with allergy-free menu items. If it’s a catered meal, ask if there are allergy-free options. For example, if you have a dairy allergy and a sprinkle of parmesan on the salad is standard, you can make sure that yours comes without the cheese.

For socials, communicate with the host in advance so that he/she can be conscious of your allergies while cooking. Offer to bring a dish or two so that there is something on the table that you can enjoy.

Just because you have allergies doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve to enjoy the holidays as much as everyone else. You will need to be proactive. You will need to speak up and advocate for yourself. However, this can be done with tact and end with a resolution that works for everyone.

And remember—you don’t have to settle for a life compromised by allergies. Talk to your doctor about environmental and food allergy treatment options through sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). SLIT is a safer alternative to allergy shots that treats pollen, mold, dust, pet dander, and food allergies through under-the-tongue oral allergy drops. Because of its safety profile, SLIT can be taken at home for maximum convenience. With appropriate treatment, you can enjoy the holidays without allergies putting a damper on them.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.