Allergies are no fun to deal with at any time of the year, but the winter holiday season in particular can be a minefield of unusual scents, extra dust, and tasty family recipes with a “secret ingredient” that makes you break out in hives…or worse. Luckily, with just a bit of extra preparation on your part, you can avoid many common holiday allergens.

Of course, this is assuming that you know what you’re allergic to already. Allergies can change over an individual’s lifetime as the autoimmune system develops, adapts, and changes naturally. If you suspect that you’re developing allergies, a doctor can perform a scratch test to determine what you might be allergic to. Most people, however, can usually pinpoint what causes reactions on their own. Severe reactions (or anaphylaxis) need to be treated immediately with epinephrine and warrant a 911 call. Milder reactions can usually be handled with antihistamines, prescription corticosteroids, and decongestants. If you suffer from allergies, make sure you have a supply of whatever medication you need on hand at all times. If you think you’ll need help administering epinephrine, teach your family how to do it.

Deck the (Dusty) Halls

Dust mites are extremely common allergens that can turn the yearly unearthing of your decorations into a veritable mess of sneezes, snot, and tears. Wearing a mask while you dig through your cellar, attic, or garage and wiping everything down with a damp cloth will reduce your exposure. Happily, most people have only mild reactions to dust mites, and over-the-counter antihistamines or pre-prescribed treatments usually alleviate the worst of the symptoms. If you have latex allergies, avoid bringing poinsettias into your home: 40 percent of people allergic to latex are also allergic to these seasonal flowers.

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Food allergies are easy enough to deal with if you prepare your own food. But if you’re visiting friends or relatives for a holiday meal, you need to let them know what you can and cannot eat ahead of time, or ask them to point out the dishes with dangerous ingredients while you’re there. Volunteer to bring a dish to add to the meal; making or buying something yourself will give you at least one option you know is safe.

On a related note, if you have animal allergies, you might have to ask people to keep their four-legged friends in a different area of the house while you visit (keep your preferred medicine close by, just in case).

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree: Thy Leaves Make Me Sneeze

Live Christmas trees can set off allergies. If your reaction has been severe in past years, consider buying an artificial tree. Though more expensive than their living cousins, they can be used for years and years (and pre-lit ones often save a frustrating step in decorating). If you still want a live tree, or if your allergies are caused by dirt on the tree rather than the tree itself, washing it can get rid of troublesome dust, dirt, and insects.

Jingle Bells, Batman Smells

Scent-triggered migraines, while not technically allergies, are still major concerns for many people, and the winter holidays bring with them the overpowering smells of novelty candles, themed air-fresheners, and even fresh-baked goods. If you can’t avoid triggering smells, keep painkillers or migraine medicine on hand and consider using peppermint essential oil (if peppermint isn’t also a triggering scent) to alleviate the pain. Peppermint oil rubbed gently into the temples can reduce headache and migraine pain.

William Plymouth is a freelance health & medical science blogger based in the greater metropolitan area of Houston, Texas. To learn more about the latest advancements in mesothelioma treatments, William encourages readers to view the informational resources from a trusted law firm which handles mesothelioma based claims.

Image credit goes to zaimoku_woodpile.