|Get the best of Oprah.com in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletters!|
Are You Allergic to the Holidays?
1. Trimming the tree makes your nose run and your eyes itch. While fir tree allergies are relatively rare, many people are hypersensitive to the mold, dust and dead needles on live trees, says Sakina S. Bajowala, MD, an allergist and fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. "Most trees are cut in October or November, leaving them lots of time to accumulate debris," she says. Don't give up on live trees, though: just ask the sellers to put yours through a mechanical shaker that can loosen potential allergens, or hose it down in your yard (let it dry for a week before bringing inside). If you've already festooned your tree with ornaments, Bajowala suggests taking an OTC long-acting non-sedating antihistamine like Claritin. Keep in mind that artificial trees can also be irritating, especially if they've gotten dusty in the attic, and will need a good cleaning before you hang them with garlands.
2. A familiar tightening in your throat after eating your aunt's apple pie--but you're positive it doesn't have nuts. Bajowala says family feasts can be a challenge for those with food allergies. Many people do their holiday cooking and baking all at once, and that can lead to food cross-contamination (that pie dough may have been rolled out on the same surface as the batter for the peanut butter cookies). When heading to a family gathering, Bajowala says to make sure all relatives are aware of your food sensitivities (even if you feel like you've told them a million times), and be bold about inquiring about ingredients. Finally, always carry your allergy pills or EpiPen with you for emergencies.
3. The skin on your hands breaks into hives after dropping off a pointsetta with your in-laws. Bajowala explains that a compound with the sap can cause skin rashes. Interestingly, this is similar to a latex sensitivity (Brazilian rubber trees and pointsettas are part of the same plant family), so if you're allergic to condoms, wear gloves when carrying pointsettas and wash your hands immediately after touching them.
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.