Does Christmas leave you, a member of your family or a friend itchy, sneezing, tight chested and dabbing at running eyes?
The festive season can leave people open to allergic or asthmatic triggers. Here’s what to look out for.
Oh Christmas Tree…
Hayfever can be set off by the sticky sap exuded by real Christmas trees and can spark allergic reactions.
As a precaution you should spray your tree with water before bringing it indoors, wear thick gardening gloves and cover any bare skin when handling the tree.
What’s that smell?
We all like to make our houses warm and cosy during winter. However, the perfume in scented candles can aggravate allergic conditions, especially when burnt in small spaces. Use plain candles or get fairy lights instead as a solution.
Don’t go nuts
Food allergies can come on quickly and can induce sickness or a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. Ask your guests if they have any allergies and avoid cross-contamination of food, just in case.
Pop allergies in the bud
Latex is mostly found in balloons, but also in poinsettias, the red plants that people bring into their homes during the festive periods. If you know someone who has a latex allergy, keep this iconic plant out of your home during the Christmas season.
What does an allergic reaction look like?
Mild symptoms include sneezing, itching, rash, tight chest, watery eyes/nose, worsening of asthma or eczema. A severe allergic reaction is called anaphylatic shock and is characterised by struggling to breathe, sickness, severe swelling and unconsciousness. If someone starts having these symptoms ring 999 immediately. If they have an epi-pen, use it.
It is easier to treat mild allergies that have a clear cause and many allergy medicines, such as antihistamines, are available over the counter.
But when symptoms are more troublesome, talk to your GP or online doctor who can discuss prescription-only treatment with you.
By Dr Alexandra Phelan
Dr Phelan is a GP with the NHS and Pharmacy2U, an online service which provides free, fast and convenient delivery of NHS repeat prescriptions.