You might think as fall allergy season wraps up and winter approaches, allergy sufferers are off the hook for a little while. Unfortunately, the holidays bring about an increase in allergic reactions and symptom flair ups for those with asthma. The culprit is one you may not think about when you think of allergies: your decorations.

“The holidays can present a variety of challenges for asthma and allergy patients,” says Dr. Cliff Bassett, an ambassador for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). “Our environment changes in many ways during the holidays, from having new people in our homes to bringing in potential irritants like pine trees and dusty old holiday decorations.

So how do we help minimize allergen contamination in the home? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you start planning your holidays:

  • If your decorations are not stored in airtight plastic bins, they likely have picked up dust, mold or other allergens from your garage, attic or basement. Thoroughly clean, dust or wash décor items before bringing them into the home.
  • If outdoor allergens are typically a problem, you might want to avoid live trees, wreaths and holiday flowers. Artificial trees can cause problems too, especially those with artificial snow. Before setting up any type of tree, use a leaf blower to blow off dust or pollen.
  • Run a air purifier with a HEPA filter throughout the holiday season. Vacuum and dust regularly. Avoid common allergen triggers, such as potpourris, scented candles and cinnamon pinecones. Instead, bake with natural ingredients for a holiday aroma.

Ramie A. Tritt, MD, President, Atlanta ENT