It’s Frozen, But Can I Let My Allergies Go? A Guide for Fall and Winter

The first freezes of the year herald the end of pollen season–congratulations, you made it! But Fall and Winter come with their own sources of allergy and asthma triggers. Now the things to look out for are mold, dust, Aunt Martha’s fruitcake, and holiday-associated culprits. See below for details.

Dust & Mold

Unpacking holiday decorations can expose us to a year’s worth of dust buildup, and the journey into the basement can expose us to molds thriving in winter dampness. Additional hours spent indoors can add to dust and mold exposure, and result in sneezing, sniffling, and shortness of breath. So as we move into the winter months, it’s important to maintain good cleaning habits: vacuum carpet and furniture at least once a week, remove dust from indoor surfaces, and put dust mite covers on pillows and mattresses. Minimize mold by keeping humidity low throughout the house, using exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen, and drying clothes immediately after washing.

Food Allergies

It’s also the time of year for lots and lots of eating, and possibly exposure to food allergens. Remember the ABC’s of Holiday Food Allergies:

  1. ASK about ingredients.
  2. BE WARY of cross contamination.
  3. CARRY EPINEPHRINE in case of accidental exposure or ingestion. Don’t leave your EpiPen or Auvi-Q in the car where it will get too cold.

A good rule of thumb: if you are pausing to think if a food is safe, it’s probably best to avoid it. Also, sometimes cooking food can cause allergens to become airborne and trigger an allergic response in sensitive people. Be careful around the kitchen and nearby areas.

Help for the Holidays

Some other warnings from The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAI) and The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) include:

  • Christmas Trees and Holiday Wreaths: Some people may experience sneezing, itchy noses, or shortness of breath around live Christmas trees or wreaths. This usually isn’t due to an allergy to the tree itself, but to mold spores or fragrances coming from the tree. These irritants can activate both allergies and asthma, but you have some options:
    • Use an artificial tree–your best option.
    • If you must have a live tree, the AAAAI recommends leaving it in the garage or enclosed porch to dry out for a week and then giving it a good shake before moving it indoors.
  • “The Thanksgiving Effect”: You’ve left Fido behind while you travel for the holidays or go to school, and when you get home you suddenly start having allergy or asthma symptoms! Sometimes time away from our pets can cause us to lose tolerance to them. An allergist can help you manage your symptoms.
  • Smoke: Cozying up by the fire can be bad news for those of us with asthma. If Yule Log won’t cut it for you, the EPA recommends burning dry wood that has been split, stacked, and covered for 6 months to reduce smoke. If you smell smoke in your home, your wood burning stove, fireplace, and/or chimney may not be working as it should. It’s important to get your stove or fireplace inspected by a certified professional every year.
  • Artificial Snow or Flocking: These sprays can irritate the lungs, triggering asthma symptoms. Follow directions carefully when applying, and wear a mask if possible.
  • Stress: Black Friday is soon upon us, as are last minute errands and cooking for the whole family. Remember that stress can lead to asthma attacks. If you feel yourself beginning to get worked up, remember that Stressed is Desserts spelled backwards.

And, as always, if you would like to come in for a flu shot just give us a call!

Have a happy and healthy holiday season!


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