Allercy and Asthma Health
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The Official Publication of AAN - MA

10 Asthma and Allergy Triggers To Avoid This Holiday Season

Gardening

By Amanda Richter, MHA, RRT-NPS, RRT-ACCS, RPFT, FACHE

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday season is filled with celebration, time with family and friends, and unfortunately, a host of asthma triggers. Here are 10 common holiday season triggers and how you can avoid them.

  1. Cold air. Just breathing the crisp, cool, fall and winter air can be enough to trigger asthma. Cold air can cause constriction of the airways in the lungs. Avoid breathing in cold air by using a scarf or other form of protection around your nose and mouth to help warm the air before breathing it in.
  2. Heating your home. Indoor fireplaces can produce enough smoke to trigger asthma. Kerosene and gas space heaters can also contribute to asthma symptoms. Avoid these heat sources if possible, but if you must use them, be sure you know how to properly use your fireplace or wood stove, keep the flue open, and have it professionally cleaned and checked for any leaks on a regular basis.
  3. Indoor air quality. When the temperature drops, we often spend more time indoors. These cozy days at home can make you more susceptible to allergy and asthma triggers, including pet dander and dust mites. Firing up the furnace can circulate airborne dust containing lint, animal dander, bacteria, fabric fiber, and food material. Change air filters frequently, wash bedding in hot water, and buy allergen-resistant covers for pillows and mattresses.
  4. Special scents. The holiday air is often filled with many scents and smells from potpourri, oil warmers, scented candles, and diffusers. These scents can be irritating to many allergy and asthma sufferers.
  5. Raking leaves. Fall leaves are not only a chore, but wet, dead leaves are a breeding ground for mold, and spores can travel easily in the crisp fall air. When raking leaves, wear a mask to help you avoid breathing mold spores into your nose and lungs. Wear long sleeves and pants to keep them off your skin, and prevent mold from entering your home by dressing in layers and shedding outer layers before going inside. If you are particularly sensitive to leaves or mold, consider assigning this chore to someone else, if possible.
  6. Campfires and bonfires. Toasting marshmallows and making S’mores can be fun holiday activities, but smoke inhalation can trigger asthma. If you do join in on campfire fun, avoid smoke as much as possible by standing upwind, and try not to stand too close to the fire.
  7. Respiratory Infections. The common cold, influenza, and other respiratory infections can trigger asthma. Try to prevent these infections by getting your flu shot and washing your hands frequently.
  8. Food. Food plays a central role in many holiday gatherings. From the Thanksgiving stuffing to the holiday cookies, holiday gatherings can be difficult to navigate if you have food allergies. Be sure to ask about ingredients and beware of potential preparation cross-contamination. If you aren’t certain about the safety of the food you’ll be offered, it may be beneficial to eat prior to arriving or bring your own snacks.
  9. Decorations. Live trees, wreaths, and other décor are susceptible to mold, pollen, and high fragrance — all of which can trigger asthma and should be avoided. Other decorations, including artificial trees and ornaments, are often packed away for close to a year, collecting dust and mold. Storing them in airtight containers and wiping them down before packing them away can help.
  10. Stress. The holidays are meant for joy, but for some they can be quite stressful. Stress can lead to asthma attacks. Reduce your stress by planning ahead, not overcommitting, and setting time aside to relax.

Amanda Richter is a member of the American Association for Respiratory Care from Texas, where she is the director of cardiopulmonary services at Metroplex Health System in Killeen.

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