Updated 24 December 2017

Are you allergic to Christmas?

Family, friends, food… and allergies?


Christmas is a time for loved ones to get together and bring the year to a close, but an allergic reaction may make it harder for you to enjoy the Christmas cheer.

While some allergens are more common than others, you may be surprised to discover that there are some Christmas items that can make you itch and sneeze.

1. Christmas decorations

While you might not be allergic to the tree or baubles, some decorations may have gathered dust or mould depending on how they were stored.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, mould is likely to grow in the kitchen and bathroom, but it can also grow in the garage or cupboards.

Similarly to other allergies, an allergic reaction to mould can result in a runny nose, itching and sneezing.

To prevent a reaction, clean your Christmas decorations before putting them up.

2. Food

food allergy

Some food allergies are harmless but some can be fatal. To prevent a hospital visit over Christmas, let your dinner guests know if you have used any ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction.

Some of the more common allergens include nuts, wheat, gluten, sesame, milk, soy, egg and fish.

If you are attending a Christmas dinner or lunch, do not be shy to ask the host about any potential allergens in the food.

3. Alcohol

alcohol allergy

Rare as it may be, an allergy to alcohol is possible.

Before sipping on a festive cocktail, be aware that allergens, such as grapes, barley, rye, yeast and hops, can be found in alcohol.

Unlike alcohol intolerance, an allergy to alcohol means you have to steer clear of alcoholic beverages that contain the allergen you are allergic to.

An allergic reaction may be life-threatening and symptoms include difficulty breathing, nausea, diarrhoea and swelling of the throat.

4. Holiday odours

While potpourri and scented candles may give you your house a lovely smell, they could be the reason for that summer sniffle and sneeze.

Though benign in nature, an allergy to fragrances may leave you with an itchy rash, nasal congestion, watery eyes or a runny nose.

If you are unwilling to put away your scented candles and potpourri, then taking an antihistamine will help prevent an irritating allergic reaction. 

5. Christmas tree

Christmas tree

Yes, you read correctly. The very symbol of Christmas can bring you some temporary affliction!

South African families generally opt for fake Christmas trees, which can cause an allergic reaction if not cleaned properly after being unpacked.

Similarly to decorations, a Christmas tree may gather dust or mould in storage, which can often cause sneezing, itchy eyes, chest tightness and wheezing in those who have a dust allergy.

Image credits: iStock


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