From sketchy potlucks to cat-crazed relatives, the holiday season can present some shaky situations for anyone with allergies.
The same goes for anyone hosting family or other guests. What if someone has a food allergy and can’t eat my fancy roasted nut loaf? What should I do about my dog, Dave, and his dander?
The good news is this: no matter which side of the allergy fence you’re on, getting through the holidays is easy if you take a few simple steps.
Dealing with pets
If one of your guests is allergic to dogs or cats, start first with dedicating one bedroom as “pet free.”
That means clean one room thoroughly:
- Vacuum all carpets and furniture.
- Put freshly washed linens on the bed.
- Wipe all hard surfaces (cat dander is sticky).
“The key is to get as much pet dander out of the room as possible so your guest has a spot in the house where he can go if allergy symptoms begin to flare,” Kokan said.
The responsibility also falls on the person with allergies, Kokan said. If you have an animal allergy, take proper medication in advance and carry any eye drops, inhalers or other medicines you may need.
If your allergy is severe, you may want to stay at a hotel, Kokan said.
Food – avoid cross contamination
Holiday parties. Fresh-baked cookies in the office. Even dinner at grandma’s.
All are perfect opportunities for foods to “mingle” with other foods, leading to potentially dangerous and life threatening situations for people with food allergies.
The single best way to avoid allergic reactions is to prevent cross contamination. That means keep foods COMPLETELY separate, from preparation through serving time.
“Many people don’t realize you only need traces of a nut to cause a severe allergic reaction in some people,” Kokan said.
How to avoid cross contamination:
- Use separate serving utensils for each dish.
- Make your guests aware of food allergies so they don’t mix items.
- When cooking, use clean utensils to prepare each dish.
- Wash hands and counters between handling different foods.
- Consider making “allergy-free” dishes separate from others.
“It’s thoughtful to ask ahead of time if someone has a food allergy,” Kokan said.
If you have a food allergy, always carry an EpiPen. As many as 1 in 5 people who have allergic reactions didn’t have their EpiPen at the time, Kokan said. Learn how to use an EpiPen with this video.
Manage dust and mold
Dust, which is heavy, tends to settle on surfaces and deep in carpets. Vacuuming, while effective, also stirs up dust, and this can induce allergies.
“It’s actually more important to change bedding where dust easily settles,” Kokan said.
Air purifiers don’t do much to help battle dust, she said. That’s because filters catch lightweight particles such as pollen and pet dander. Changing your furnace filter regularly is worthwhile, though.
Dust tends to also get stirred up this time of year when you bring holiday decorations out for the first time in a year.
And those holiday decorations? Mold can live there, too. Often, people with mold allergies have problems with Christmas trees because mold grows in the bark.
“Pollen actually isn’t the problem because the trees aren’t producing it this time of year,” Kokan said.