Tips for Avoiding Asthma, Allergy Triggers This Season

MONDAY, Dec. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Holiday decorations, both old and new, can cause asthma attacks and allergic reactions, an expert says.

Dr. Joseph Leija, an allergist at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Maywood, Ill., warns that fresh Christmas trees, poinsettias and boxes that have been stored for months can stir up potential triggers like dust and mold.

"The dust from the boxes and on the decorations that have been packed away in dank basements or dusty attics is triggering reactions in my allergy and asthma patients," Leija said in a Loyola University Health System news release.

Leija offered the following tips to help people who suffer from asthma or allergies avoid flare-ups:

  • Choose an artificial tree. Fir and pine trees can worsen respiratory conditions, like asthma and allergies. These trees also contain dust, mites and other pollutants that can aggravate nasal passages. "The water in the tree holder also grows stagnant and collects mold, which is detrimental to those with allergies," Leija added.
  • Avoid scented candles and oil. These fragrances can irritate the sinuses and respiratory system making it harder for people with asthma and allergies to breathe.
  • Steer clear of fresh plants and flowers. "The moist soil encourages the growth of mold. And if there is mold in your house, you are breathing mold spores," Leija said. Breathing in mold spores restricts airflow and could cause a rash.
  • Be careful with the humidifier. "Get a gauge and keep the humidity no higher than 48 to 50 percent," Leija explained. "Too much humidity encourages the growth of mold, which triggers allergic reactions."
  • Store decorations in plastic bins. Large plastic containers help keep decorations dust-free during the off-season.

"My husband and daughter are fine but fresh Christmas trees and fur from Santa's suit make my sons and I choke up and stop breathing," said allergy sufferer, Carol Leopold in a news release. "I still go all out for the holidays but with three artificial trees, silk poinsettias and lots of carefully scrutinized nut-free foods."

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

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SOURCE: Loyola University Health System, news release, Dec. 13, 2011