‘Tis the season to deck the halls. From garlands to menorahs to festive lights, the holiday season is filled with things to help the cold, dark winter days seem a little brighter. For people living with asthma the holidays can also mean a lot of unexpected asthma triggers. As we enter this merry time of year, here are some of these holiday-related asthma triggers to be aware of and some practical solutions to keep you safe.
Opt for natural aromas that come from baking or cooking. If you love the sent of cinnamon in the holiday season you can also try creating potpourri on the stove with whole cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg. Cinnamon brooms, scented candles, air fresheners, pinecones, etc. can lead to making it hard for someone with asthma to breath (also know as an asthma flare-up).
Beyond cinnamon, add natural scents to your home by baking or creating potpourri out of fresh ingredients such as citrus and vanilla. If you enjoy the ambiance candles create, use non-scented or even battery-operated flameless candles.
O’ Christmas Tree and other Decorations
Both real and artificial Christmas trees can be problematic for people with asthma. Live trees can bring in allergy and asthma triggers such as mold and pollen. The strong smell of pine itself can trigger asthma symptoms. On the other hand, artificial trees can carry dust and mold from improper storage.
If you plan to have a live tree at home, make sure to shake it out before bringing it inside. You can also spray it down with a hose and let it dry before setting it up inside. Once it has been placed inside, change the water in the tree stand frequently to keep mold from growing.
For a fake tree, it is best to clean it thoroughly before adding the rest of your decorations. Pick a fake tree without false snow/frost on the branches, as this can an asthma trigger. When the holidays are over, store the artificial tree in a clean, dry place.
After cleaning your tree, make sure to give the clean the other decorations too. When putting them away at the end of the season, try to store decorations in plastic bins rather than cardboard boxes. Cardboard boxes are a place mold and pests like to be.
The holidays are bringing the biggest travel days of the year. Holiday travel can mean sitting in close quarters with people wearing perfume or colon, that can cause someone to feel their asthma symptoms. If you are traveling this year, make sure to prepare – pack your inhaler with refills and spacer in an easy to reach place.
Traveling can mean finding asthma triggers inside a family’s or friend’s home. If you are staying in a home with possible asthma triggers like pets or smoke, make sure to communicate your needs. You may need to ask if pets can stay in another part of the house while you are there. You should also talk to your doctor before you go, if you think you may need to pre-treat your asthma.
If you are traveling away from your own pets for an extended period during the holiday season, be prepared for the “Thanksgiving Effect.” According to the American Academy of Asthma Allergy and Immunology (AAAAI), this occurs when you are away from your pets for a few days, and your body “forgets” their specific dander. This can cause you to have asthma symptoms when you see your pets again.
Besides pets, wood burning fireplaces can be big asthma problem. Do your best to talk and sit away from wood fires or ask your hosts or family not burn fires, if possible.
As we head into the holiday season make sure to have your asthma action plan updated, to help you and those around you know how to treat early warning signs and take care of symptoms if they get worse. Assess and track your asthma symptoms to keep your asthma under control and ensure a safe and happy holiday season!
Interested in bringing an asthma management program to your community? Check out the Open Airways for Schools asthma education program for children ages 8 to 11 years old. This program also has scholarships available on a periodic basis, so keep an eye on the program webpage!