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Format: 04/19/2014
Format: 04/19/2014


‘You better watch out’ for allergy and asthma triggers this holiday season; AGH allergist offers tips to keep the celebration enjoyable

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

PITTSBURGH - For people who suffer from allergies and asthma, the holiday season’s fun, festivities and food can hide dangers. Awareness and careful planning can help people with allergies and asthma avoid triggers that ruin their holiday fun, said Allegheny General Hospital allergist Deborah Gentile, MD.
“Unfortunately, many holiday allergy and asthma triggers are hidden or not well known to the public,” Dr. Gentile said. “People think of fall or spring as prime season for allergies and asthma, but the December holidays can also be challenging.”
Among the dangers:
  • People with latex allergies should beware the poinsettia, which is part of the same plant family as the rubber tree. Touching or even standing near a poinsettia can lead to wheezing, skin rashes, or even more serious symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain.
  • Both live and artificial Christmas trees can harbor mold and pollen. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommends washing the trees outside with a garden hose or use a leaf blower to help remove some of the pollen. Some people may be allergic to terpene, a substance in the tree’s sap, and will want to wear gloves when handling the tree. Store artificial trees in an air-tight bag.
  • Any type of decoration stored in the attic or basement can gather dust and mold. Clean each item thoroughly before displaying.
  • Artificial snow from aerosol cans can trigger attacks, as can scented candles and potpourri.
  • When people gather indoors, that’s when viruses are likely to be passed around. Make sure you’ve had a flu shot and keep stress under control by taking time for yourself if needed.
  • When spending the holidays at a friend’s or relative’s house, be alert to possible allergens in food such as milk, eggs, nuts or shellfish. Be sure to pack your medication, and take your own pillows and mattress covers if necessary.
For more information, contact:
West Penn Allegheny Health System
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