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Allergies During the Holidays

Are holiday allergies keeping you on the sidelines? Take control of your symptoms with these quick tips.

Hints to Help Control Holiday Allergies continued...

Artificial holiday decorations. While fake greenery can indeed help reduce allergy symptoms, "it can also get damp and grow mold, as well as accumulate dust," Chiu tells WebMD. To help keep holiday allergies to these under control, Chiu recommends storing artificial Christmas trees, ornaments, and other decorations in dry containers.

Handling Food Allergies

First, know yourself. Before you can manage holiday allergies to food, you must "know what foods you're sensitive to," says allergist Steven H. Cohen, MD, associate clinical professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin. That may be milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, cashews, etc.), fish, shellfish, soy, or wheat -- eight foods that account for 90% of all food allergy reactions.

Then communicate. Once you know what you're allergic to, you need to talk about it -- especially during this season of celebration. That's because the first and best treatment for holiday food allergies is to avoid what you're allergic to, Cohen says, so communication is key. At seasonal gatherings with friends and family, tell them about your food allergies, ask about ingredients in meals and desserts, and solicit their help so you can avoid the foods you're allergic to.

Dodging Pet Dander

At home. You don't want to banish Fifi out in the cold during the holidays, so tame pet allergies by wash your hands and face frequently, keeping floors swept, and carpets vacuumed. While you can bathe pets to reduce dander, that's effective for only a few days. Keeping yourself scrubbed is a lot easier, more beneficial -- and keeps the peace with your pets!

On the road. The protein in pet dander that causes allergic reactions is so light it can be carried in the air or on clothes and hair -- which explains why you'll find dander in unlikely places like schools, workplaces, and pet-free homes. The best way to prepare yourself for pet allergies when away is to take allergy medications before visiting homes that have pets.

Dealing With Dust Mites

At home. Dust mites are well-known allergy and asthma triggers. When you're at home, keep symptoms in check by changing air filters frequently, washing bedding in hot water at least twice a month, and buying allergen-resistant covers for pillows and mattress. And because dust mites thrive in high humidity, think about using a humidifier/dehumidifier to keep indoor humidity between 30% and 50%.

On the road. When traveling, it's a good idea to take along your own pillow with an allergen-proof cover, or to request a down-free pillow if staying in a hotel or with friends, suggests the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Moderating With Medication

No matter how careful you are, you can still be exposed to holiday allergens and irritants. That's why it's important to carry your allergy medications with you, whether it's an antihistamine, inhaler, or EpiPen, says Chiu. And even when you don't have symptoms "remember to continue taking any medications your doctor has prescribed."

Steer Clear of Stress

It's well-known that stress can cause asthma to flare, but it may not do your allergies any good either, writes Kenneth Bock, MD, in Psychology Today. Bock maintains that one of the best ways to bolster your immune system -- so that it can more easily fend off allergy symptoms -- is to recognize the effects stress, anxiety, and other high emotions can have on your immunity, and then to steer clear. His suggestions? A little yoga, meditation, or message therapy. Think of these as holiday gifts to yourself, ones that give all year. 

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