8 Surprising Allergy Facts for the Holidays
4. Knit Softly
A sweater is a classic seasonal present. But watch which knit you pick. For instance, put one of those great “to look at” rough knits against sensitive skin and your gift recipient will be itching to get it off – now! And it’s not just the person with an allergy-prone hide: “Wool is the prickliest natural fiber known, as sheep hair has barbs,” says Dr. Ham Pong.
Many people get itching and redness when their skin is directly exposed to the fabric. For those with eczema, the effects are magnified. Related to wool is lanolin, which is made from sheep fat. The emollient can cause allergic contact dermatitis and eczema flare-ups.
Advice: Check labels carefully to avoid wools that bother your gift-getter. Or go upscale and purchase alpaca, which is highly allergy-friendly and gorgeous.
5. Bathing in Itch
There’s a woman on your gift list who you don’t know to well. Naturally, you head to the bath products because, what woman doesn’t love those? Well, that depends. If she has nut allergy, she won’t love you for the macadamia-based skincare product.
If she has contact dermatitis or other skin sensitivity, Allergic Living columnist Dr. Sandra Skotnicki, a dermatologist, says to avoid fragranced products. She also counsels opting for facial and body soaps that are mild and unscented.
Dr. Skotnicki says: “Fragrance is still the number one cause of allergic contact dermatitis to toiletry products, with an incidence of about 4 per cent within the North American population.”
Advice: What smells great in the store can be highly irritating to the skin, and the airways for those with asthma. Look for unscented products rather than “hypoallergenic”. The latter is widely used, but many so-called “hypoallergenic” products contain fragrance.
FOOD & DRINK
6. Think: What’s in That Drink?
When uncle pulls out his coveted single malt Scotch, surprisingly those in the room with celiac disease can also hoist a glass. While Scotch and rye whiskeys are derived from fermented grains, the gluten is thoroughly removed during the thorough distillation process of whiskeys. Wines and ports are grape-based and also generally gluten-free. (See more on gluten-free drinks here.)
The nut-allergic also have to be mindful around alcohol (though wine is generally safe). Oddly, despite its name, the liqueur Amaretto usually does not contain almonds, but check with a manufacturer to be certain of a specific brand is safe.
Advice: Be on the lookout for mixed drinks. Celiacs and the allergic alike must watch out for gluten or allergens in drink blends. When it comes to alcohol, the tree-nut allergic have to be mindful since some liqueurs (e.g. Frangelico and Kahana Royale) and brands of gin can contain nuts. And did you know that Southern Comfort contains nut derivatives?
7. Frosty Around the Food
It’s no secret that those with food allergies and celiac disease have to keep their guard up over the holidays. But even if you’ve explained your allergies and the concept of cross-contamination – remember that a favorite auntie doesn’t live with these restrictions daily and may mess up. Ingratiate yourself into the kitchen, ask to read labels and ask what’s in a favorite recipe..
Advice: here are a few suspect foods to be on the lookout for this time of year:
* pre-basted turkey – ingredients can include soy or gluten or milk. (Speak to the hosts about label-reading soonest.)
* stuffing: gluten and nut alert!
* gravy: If the hostess is at all hazy on her many ingredients, take a pass.
* Hanukkah menus can be tricky to navigate. Latkes usually contain egg and wheat and often dairy (cheese latkes are popular). Consider contributing our allergy-friendly, gluten-free latkes.
* Hanukkah gelt ingredients can include dairy and nuts. Best to provide allergy-friendly gelt.
* dessert: the wisest course is to offer to bring it, since desserts are potential minefield of nuts, gluten, dairy or egg. If store-bought, soy is often an ingredient, used as an emulsifier.
8. Holiday Stress
We all “think” we’re having fun over the holidays, but sometimes all the preparations, travel or entertaining, plus late nights can add up to a lot of stress. And that, warns the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology can hinder your immune system. The ACAAI also notes the risk for asthmatics because as family gathers, so does the likelihood that someone is there spreading viral illness.
Advice: Watch that you’re getting a little decompress time, make sure in the chaos of a busy house that you or your child is taking your usual asthma or allergy medications.
Next: Food Allergy Tips