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December 19,  2001

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: Surviving the Holiday Season -- Allergy Free


(SafetyAlerts) - The holidays are a time of peace and joy, however, this time of year can be particularly troublesome for some people. Christmas trees, cookies and eggnog are traditions that go along with the season, but for allergy sufferers, they can quickly turn holiday cheer into misery.

Am I allergic to my Christmas tree?

Christmas trees are often blamed for allergy attacks, though its usually not the tree itself that causes reactions. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), evergreen pollens, with their thick, waxy outer coating, are not considered significant allergens, and are unlikely to cause a reaction. But real and artificial Christmas trees can be a source of other allergens.

"Artificial trees can be a source of mold and dust caused by improper storage. Real Christmas trees may be a breeding ground for mold or may contain other pollens such as ragweed. Natural tree resins can also be a potential source for airborne irritants. In rare cases, tree sap can cause an allergic rash," said Richard Honsinger, M.D., FAAAAI and Chair of the AAAAI's Public Education Committee.

The risks associated with a real or artificial tree can be reduced significantly by taking a few simple precautions:

-- Use a cloth to wipe off your artificial tree;
-- To remove pollens from real trees, take it outside and spray it with a garden hose. Place the stump in a bucket of water and then allow the rest of the tree to dry thoroughly in the garage. Store the tree in a sealed plastic casing before setting it up;
-- When handling a real tree, wear gloves to keep sap away from the skin;
-- Gently wipe off ornaments and lights to remove dust and mold.

I have food allergies. What should I avoid?

The holiday season is especially dangerous for those with food allergies. Many traditional holiday treats such as eggnog, cookies and candy may contain hidden food allergens, making accidental ingestion easy. "The most common foods that trigger allergic reactions include milk, eggs, legumes (especially peanuts), and tree nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnut," said Honsinger. "Because it only takes a tiny amount of a food allergen to trigger a potentially dangerous reaction, people with food allergies should exercise caution."

If you suffer from food allergies, here are some holiday party foods to avoid:

-- Baked Goods -- Ice cream
-- Eggnog -- Macaroni mixes
-- Fruitcake -- Quiches
-- Meatballs -- Some salad dressings
-- Cheese -- Mixed nuts
-- Glazed rolls/bread -- Vegetable and Chip dips

Although avoidance is the best way to handle food allergies, it may not always be possible. Homemade items do not have ingredients listed and can be contaminated with small amounts of food allergens through contact with storage containers, baking sheets and utensils. Food allergy reactions can also be intensified by smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. Using an antihistamine before a party where you may be exposure to an unrecognized food allergen could help prevent or reduce the severity of a reaction. However, this should not be relied upon for protection. For people with severe sensitivities, self-injectable epinephrine prescribed by an allergist/immunologist, should be available.

Precautions need to be taken at school too. "Parents of children with food allergies should pack a snack from home for their child when school classes have holiday parties. It's the only way to avoid inadvertent exposure to allergenic foods," said Honsinger.

Source: PRNewswire.

Selected Recent Recalls

Health Professional:

Did you know?
During 2000 there were over
1050 products recalled in the United
States for safety reasons!

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