Most people think of spring when they think about asthma and allergies, and while spring and fall allergies are big asthma triggers, the holidays are rife with them as well. Check out this list of the top 5 holiday asthma triggers and what you can do to avoid them.
1. Christmas Trees
Both real and fake trees can trigger asthma attacks. Real trees harbor a host of allergens that are known to trigger asthma, including pollen and mold spores from the summer. Certain species of trees and their sap contain that which are also known to cause asthma attacks.
Artificial trees that are stored year after year, often in dusty attics or damp basements, usually harbor dust and mold spores, which are very common asthma triggers.In addition, bugs and rodents can get into the trees as well and certain bugs and droppings can also be an asthma trigger.
To avoid allergens that could trigger asthma attacks, use a leaf blower and blow off live trees before bringing them inside. If no leaf blower is available, rinse the tree off and allow it to dry outdoors. This will remove most allergens before they can enter the home.
Artificial trees should be unpacked outside and each piece should either be rinsed or vacuumed off before bringing it into the main living area to eliminate the possible asthma triggers that are packed in the tree. It's also important to keep in mind that artificial trees may contain a number of hazardous chemicals used in during manufacture, which can cause asthma attacks. If asthma symptoms persist, it may be time for a new, high quality tree.
The cold weather associated with the holiday season is also a common asthma trigger. Cold weather is often very dry and the combination of the two excites receptors in the lungs causing asthma attacks. Asthmatic lungs definitely prefer warm, moist climates. If someone with asthma is going to be outside, they should limit the amount of time they spend outdoors and cover their mouth and nose, either with a scarf or face mask that traps moisture and warmth.
3. Deck the Halls
Just like Christmas trees, holiday decorations can harbor allergens that trigger asthma attacks. Things like dust, bugs, mold spores and even fiberglass insulation can aggravate asthma and these things can collect on decorations stored in attics, closets and basements for most of the year.
The materials that the decorations are made of can cause asthma attacks as well. Particularly the chemicals used in plastics can excite receptors in the lungs and cause asthma symptoms in addition to headaches. Often time, holiday decorations include candles. Many of the artificial fragrances used in holiday candles can be also be asthma triggers.
Just like Christmas trees, decorations should be unpacked outside and thoroughly cleaned before bringing inside. Usually a good dusting or vacuuming with a hose attachment will do the trick. If the asthma culprit is plastic, consider replacing the decorations with something that is less offensive. When selecting holiday candles, select the type that are scented with natural essential oils, which are less likely to cause irritation to lungs or opt for unscented candles.
Travel is perhaps one of the most overlooked holiday asthma triggers. When at home, people with asthma have total control over their environment, but when traveling, this isn't always the case. Depending upon a person's individual triggers, something as simple as bringing a hypoallergenic pillowcase and mattress cover could do the trick, and of course asthmatics should always be sure to have their medications with them.
One bit of good news for asthma and allergy sufferers is that more and more hotels are offering hypoallergenic rooms with no air fresheners and hypoallergenic linens, and even air filters that remove allergens from the air.
5. Bugs...And Not The Crawling Or Flying Kind
Germs from bacteria and viruses are big holiday asthma triggers. Respiratory infections reach their peak during the winter season because people spend the majority of their time in confined spaces where germs can get passed easily between people. Toss in holiday travel, which exposes people to a whole new strain of respiratory bugs, and it's a big stew pot of asthma irritating germs.
To prevent infections, people should wash their hands and use sanitizer regularly throughout the day. Wash for at least 15 seconds with warm water and anti-bacterial soap. Covering coughs and sneezes with elbows or tissue will help as well. And of course, avoiding exposure to those who are sick will prevent the spread of diseases.
The holidays are stressful enough without having to deal with repeated asthma attacks. By making sure to keep allergens at a minimum and practicing good hygiene, people can relax and enjoy the holidays, asthma-free.