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Is Your Child Allergic to Christmas?



By Christine Climer

Congestion, wheezing, coughing and sneezing are definitely not on your child’s wish list — but somehow, they always seem to be delivered just in time for Christmas. Holiday decorating can be a huge challenge if your child suffers from respiratory allergies. The good news is that you can deck the halls and still avoid allergy triggers this Christmas.

Some families love to make a special holiday quest for that perfect live tree. If allergies have interfered with your family’s quest, there are a few simple steps that may allow you to return to that holiday tradition. Many parents believe that their child is allergic to the tree itself — but in reality, the tree only carries the offenders. Tiny molds on the tree release spores into the air inside your home and cause allergy symptoms in sensitive children. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) recommends that you wash your tree thoroughly with a forceful water hose spray and then allow the tree to dry out in an enclosed porch or garage (while keeping the cut end of the trunk in a bucket of water) before bringing it indoors.

As an alternative, try a potted rosemary shrub that can be transplanted outdoors after the holidays, or try a houseplant like the Norfolk Island pine. If you choose either of these potted options, be sure not to over-water, since damp soil can also harbor molds. If you prefer to avoid plants altogether, a brightly colored wall hanging might be the perfect festive option.

Stored decorations and artificial trees can also harbor dust mites and mold spores. “Keep ornaments and decorations stored in dry areas, off the floor, in plastic bags,” advises Dr. Dan Atkins, director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, Colorado. “Wash your hands after unpacking decorations,” he adds.

Other decorating tips from the AAAAI include:

• Use plastic, metal or glass decorations that cannot hold dust mites.
• Wash fabric decorations in hot, soapy water each year before displaying.
• Get rid of fabric and other porous decorations that cannot be washed.
• Clean artificial trees outside before decorating.

Also remember that burning wood in fireplaces and items with perfumes or fragrances can trigger asthma attacks. If you are celebrating at a friend’s or relative’s home, you might ask them in advance to avoid using woodburning fireplaces and to remove scented items while your child is visiting. If your child is allergic to animal dander, ask beforehand if the home you will be visiting has any pets.

As parents of allergic children know all too well, stress can make allergies and asthma much worse. Make sure your child gets plenty of rest, eats a healthy diet and sticks to his normal routine and treatment plan as closely as possible this holiday season to keep stress and allergy symptoms at a bare minimum.

Learn more:

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

The American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Allergy and Immunology

National Jewish Medical and Research Center

© Christine Climer

Christine Climer is a registered nurse with experience in pulmonary disease, pediatrics, home health, hospice and early childhood education. She specializes in the promotion of child and family health in Best Baby Nurse in Dallas, Texas. When she’s not busy with her daughter and twin boys, Christine enjoys researching health issues and gardening.

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