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'Holiday effect' allergies due to season

Experts say the holidays are when most people will experience allergic symptoms for the first time.
December 3, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The holidays bring people together, but they can also bring out the sniffles in people who suffer from allergies. There are tips for combating something doctors call the "holiday effect."

You might think summer and spring are the worst times for allergy sufferers, but experts say the holidays are when most people will experience allergic symptoms for the first time. It's because people are staying indoors, visiting people with pets and being surrounded with decorations.

Tina Kitamura of Playa del Rey loves everything about the holidays. But she's allergic to something on ornaments and decorations.

"We often forget they're stored in a lot of dusty areas," said Kitamura.

That's why artificial trees make her wheezy, itchy and sneezy.

"It sometimes gets to the point where I'll break out in rashes," said Kitamura.

And she's not out of the woods with real trees.

"Live Christmas trees actually can contain mold because they are cut and then they're stored for a few months," said Dr. Katie Marks-Cogan, South Bay Allergy and Asthma Association.

At least Kitamura knows what she's allergic to. During the holidays, Marks-Cogan says many people will experience first-time flare-ups.

"Oftentimes they will be experiencing symptoms to something that had never caused them a problem in the past," said Marks-Cogan.

Allergists call this the "holiday effect." An example would be a college student who goes home for school break and experiences symptoms she never had before to the family dog. Doctors say a lack of exposure can change your immune system.

"This is when someone temporarily loses tolerance to an allergen that they had been consistently exposed to in the past," said Marks-Cogan.

Marks-Cogan says new allergy sufferers should get evaluated by a specialist.

People with known allergies should create a holiday action plan.

-- When traveling, pack your allergy meds in a carry-on so you'll have then when you need them.

-- Remember: take your meds at the same time every day even though your schedule changes.

-- And forget about roasting chestnuts on an indoor fire.

"Because the ash and smoke can actually cause an asthma attack," said Marks-Cogan.

So this Christmas when Tina Kitamura visits friends, she's prepared.

"Right now the best has been the allergy shots, that's really helped me out tremendously," said Kitamura.

One more thing: You may not be bothered by cats now. But Dr. Marks-Cogan says if you have any allergies at all, you're 32 percent more likely to have an allergic reaction to cats than those without allergies.


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