Christmas is a time of joy, togetherness and... allergies? If you are coughing or sneezing, you may assume you caught a cold. You may actually be suffering from a “Christmas allergy” instead. Depending in the allergen, headaches, eczema and urticaria can also point in that direction. What are the most common holiday allergens, and how can you keep your home free from them?
Christmas Tree Hell
Christmas trees may be the most essential decorations that comes into your home during the holidays, but it is also the one most likely to trigger allergies. Interestingly, your Christmas tree can be risky whether you decide to get a real pine tree or a plastic replacement.
Several types of pine trees can serve as Christmas trees. The most common kinds are Fraser Fir, Douglas Fir, and Colorado Blue Spruce. These trees are grown outside, and may have collected pollen over a few years. Pesticides used during the growth process may cause irritations as well.
It is mold that is actually the most likely allergen within your natural Christmas tree, however. The trees are often chopped up weeks before Christmas, waiting in humid warehouses until they are ready for sale. Mold can build up inside your home while you are enjoying your tree as well. Finally, there are those people who are actually allergic to the tree itself.
Plastic Christmas tree may appear to be a safer option, but appearances can be deceiving! If you have been storing last year's plastic “pine” in your home, it is bound to be full of dust and dust mites — an extremely frequent source of allergies. New plastic artificial trees may contain chemicals from the manufacturing process.
So, what can you do to make your Christmas tree safer? If you are allergic to the tree itself, you will have to remove it from your home. In most cases, you can prevent problems by treating your tree before you bring it into your house and decorate it. Natural trees can be hosed down, and artificial trees should be shaken thoroughly. If your vacuum cleaner has a blow function, you can also try that.
It is possible that you or members of your family will still experience an allergic reaction, like swollen and irritated eyes, a runny nose, and coughing. Try removing the Christmas tree from your living room for a while to see if the symptoms improve. You've pinpointed the culprit if they do. Next year, you could try a Christmas cactus perhaps...
Giving Safe Gifts
The holiday season is a real financial problem to most families, so who wouldn't want to save money by giving cheaper gifts? Beware, as the same lead-based paints we discussed earlier often appears in cheap children's toys. Stuffed animals, an all time favorite gift for kids, also pose a real asthma-hazard. Stuffed toys carrying an asthma friendly certifications are a great option if you'd really like to surprise a child with a cuddly animal.
Allergies are not the biggest worry when it comes to toys, however. All kinds of things can go wrong with toys, and they can turn into a choking hazard, falling hazard or fire hazard. That's a lot of hazards, I know! You can check if the Christmas gifts of your choice have been recalled for safety reasons on the site of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. I've put their link in the links box below in case you would like to see it.
Choose Safe Christmas Decorations
Indoor snow can quickly turn your home from its boring old pre-Christmas state into a magical holiday world — it's no wonder that spray on snows are so popular with little children. Unfortunately many of these snow aerosols contain acetone or methylene chloride. These chemicals can give people a headache, as well as making them nauseous and dizzy. Spray-on snow can have an especially profound effect if you use it frequently during the holiday period.
Christmas decorations are often produced in China and other countries that do not prioritize health and safety. Lead-based paints are therefore not uncommon. If you decorate your tree while wearing latex gloves, this is unlikely to harm you in any way. Those families who have small children in the house need to be more cautious, however. Kids love Christmas decorations and will almost certainly take them out of the tree and hold them. Decorations made of thin glass are a risky idea for the same reason.
Like artificial Christmas trees, decorations stored in your home can also accumulate dust and other allergens throughout the year. Storing them in containers that will not let dust in, like Tupperware, may help a little. Wiping all your decorations down with a wet cloth before you use them will minimize your exposure to allergens. Vacuum cleaning frequently throughout the holiday period will help as well.
All I Want For Christmas Is Food Poisoning
Are you hosting a Christmas dinner? If you are inviting anybody who you don't know very, very closely, you should always check if there are any food allergies to take into account. If, on the other hand, you or your children have any food allergies and you are having Christmas dinner elsewhere, it is your duty to inform the host family. Only you know how serious the allergies you are dealing are, and how they are best handled.
Food allergies are an obvious hazard that people who have them take very seriously. Food poisoning is another perhaps overlooked Christmas hazard. You can work toward preventing food poisoning by washing your hands frequently, and scrubbing your chopping boards very thoroughly. Boiling water is a good idea too. Did you know that the average chopping board contains more bacteria than a toilet seat?
Cook all foods properly, and pay special attention to meat. Meat should be defrosted in the microwave or fridge, and you should always take special care to avoid contaminating food by using utensils with which you have touched meat.