Seems that allergies are not just a springtime problem. Turns out this is a big allergy season too. It’s about all the things that make this a special time of year, and for some people, a pretty miserable one too, Dr. Max Gomez reports.
‘Tis the season to bring out your inner Martha Stewart – wreaths, candles, that beautifully decorated tree, all part of the holiday spirit. And for some people, they’re all part of a season of “a lot of itchy eyes, swollen eyes I would say definitely the big one. Not so much breathing, sometimes sneezing and so forth but its mainly swollen eyes,” said Pauline St. Denis.
Worse yet St. Denis said she can’t just say “bah humbug.” She’s a professional photographer who shoots a lot of holiday family portraits surrounded by holiday decorations.
This is a pretty busy time for her and her doctor.
“It’s surprising that every December we see a mini allergy explosion, many patients calling, coming in for the very first time and they are indeed having allergy symptoms in the month of December,” said Dr. Clifford Bassett of Long Island College Hospital.
The biggest culprit is that icon of the season, the live Christmas tree. After a few days indoors, the mold on the tree explodes with spores, but before you think going artificial will solve your troubles, there are more bad guys in your home.
Last year’s decorations are also probably moldy and covered in dust from being stored in your attic or basement all year. And even the newly-bought holiday accessories can be troublesome.
“Potpourri, scented products, incents, candles, thats the worse thing you can do during holidays that can really be irritating for a variety for your eyes, nose and throat,” Bassett said.
So what’s a sufferer to do? Well, humidifiers can help some as long as you don’t let the air get too damp – no more than 50-percent humidity – and follow the manufacturer’s directions to keep the unit clean.
Air cleaners can also help some. The best at scrubbing tiny mold spores have what are called hepa filters.
Serious sufferers, however, may need medication. Pauline gets allergy shots and uses a variety of other medications.
“The first thing I do is when I wake up I put in eye drops and I put them in before I go to sleep and I also take anti-histamine in the morning and another one at night,” she said.
Some over-the-counter medications and saline sprays may also give some relief, but if they don’t help, see an allergist for prescriptions or shots.
Or you can always play Scrooge and avoid the holidays altogether.
Better yet, celebrate in Aruba or Barbados where the Christmas trees are all shaped like palms.
Is there something you can do with the heating or ventilation in your homes? Well, as we’ve made our homes and apartments more air tight to conserve energy, we’ve made indoor allergies worse because all the indoor pollutants accumulate.
So if it isn’t too cold, open a window and exchange some of that stale air for fresh air.
And folks with forced air heat can add hepa filters, air scrubbers and humidifiers to the system to clear the air in the entire house without being environmentally incorrect.