From: Reuters
Published November 20, 2007 11:58 AM

Doctors offer holiday hints for allergy-prone

By Anne Harding

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Family feasts, air travel and even moldy Christmas trees make the holiday season a risky time for allergy sufferers, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) warns.

So it's particularly important for people with allergies or asthma to anticipate potential triggers for their condition at this time of year, and to be prepared by bringing asthma or allergy medication along while traveling. Medications must be on hand in a person's carry-on luggage or purse rather than stowed with checked baggage, the AAAAI advises.

"Always have your as needed medicine as well as your daily medicine," says Dr. Pamela Georgeson, president and CEO of the Kenwood Asthma and Allergy Center in Chesterfield Township, Michigan and an AAAAI spokesperson. People traveling by air should either have a note from their doctor or the prescription label on their medication with them, she added, so they won't have any trouble making it through airport security.

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And people with food allergies are now advised to carry not one but two Epi-pens for treating a severe allergic reaction, Georgeson said, because as many as 30 percent of patients may have a second reaction up to eight hours after the first.

Just being on an airplane can dry out the nasal passages, making people with asthma more prone to catching respiratory infections, which can in turn worsen asthma symptoms. "If they have underlying inflammation due to asthma, they just pick up the bug faster and it causes more problems," adovrg.nakar, an allergist and immunologist at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, and a spokesperson for the AAAAI.

Holiday treats can contain hidden nuts, dairy or other food allergy triggers, notes Dinakar, so make sure hosts know about any food allergies you have; it may make sense to bring your own home-made dessert, she added.

If an animal-allergic person is visiting a pet owner's home, Dinakar advised, he or she should take asthma medication before arriving there.

Christmas decorations can be full of dust and mold when they're brought out of storage, Dinakar said. They should be cleaned outdoors, if possible, she said, while cloth decorations should be washed in soapy water. Georgeson pointed out that Christmas trees that have been cut in the fall and stored in damp conditions frequently carry mold. "People who are exquisitely sensitive to mold have real issues with that," she said. However, freshly cut trees aren't usually a problem.

More AAAAI holiday tips for people with asthma and allergies:

* Try to keep stress, which can trigger an asthma attack, to a minimum.

* Bring along your own pillow with an allergen-proof cover, or ask for non-down pillows if you're staying at a hotel or with a relative or friend. Down pillows harbor more dust mites than pillows with synthetic fill.

* If you're using artificial snow spray to decorate, follow instructions carefully; the spray can be a lung irritant.

* Request that your hosts refrain from burning wood in their fireplace while you are at their home, as breathing wood smoke can lead to an asthma attack.

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