'Tis the Season to Be Sniffly

Bassett suggests using a leaf blower outside to blow pollen off you and washing the tree -- especially the trunk -- with a garden hose when you bring it home. Let it dry in the garage before decorating.

Allergic to the Christmas Spirits

Hopping from one holiday party to the next can leave you drained and possibly feeling a little under the weather. But your sniffles and itchy eyes may not be a cold coming on. There could be something in that seasonally spiked beverage that's getting you down.



While an actual allergy to alcohol is quite rare -- less than 3 percent of the population has it -- there are many ways that holiday beverages may aggravate your allergies.

If you find that drinking wine aggravates your allergies, you might be intolerant to sulfur dioxide, a common preservative found most often in wine and dried fruits.

The FDA reports that one out of every hundred people is sensitive to sulfur dioxide and, according to the Academy of Allergy and Asthma, those who are asthmatic are even more likely to have a serious reaction to sulfites.

If you think you might be intolerant to wine but aren't sure if it's the sulfites, Bassett points out that dried fruits can be an indicator. Because dried fruits have a much higher level of sulfites than wine, if you can tolerate these, you most likely don't have sulfite intolerance.

If sulfites are the culprit, beware that other holiday brews may have hidden sources of sulfur dioxide such as maraschino cherries, pickled cocktail onions and the bottled lemon and lime juice often used at bars.

More often, other additives in drinks such as the sulfites in wine, the yeast and grains in beer or hidden ingredients in drinks are to blame for a negative reaction.

Eggnog provides a staunch warning with its name alone to those with egg allergies. But unless you have an allergy-conscious hostess, drinks served at holiday parties do not usually come with an ingredients list.

Daines notes that if you have a life-threatening allergy, it's difficult to trust food prepared by others because "you never know what people are going to substitute into food and recipes," and it may be wiser to bring your own.

"The bigger issue with alcohol," Daines adds, "is that people who drink do stupid things. If you look at death from a food allergy, alcohol consumption is often involved. People make bad decisions and don't take care of the reaction [in time]."

Jingle Bells, That Candle Smells, My Nose Is Getting Red?

From pine-scented potpourri to snow-in-a-can, there are many ways that we try to bring the sights and smells of the season into our homes. But for people prone to allergies, the synthetic sprays and smells can be irritating to the lungs and eyes.



"Individuals with asthma have sensitive airways, so strong odors like scented candles can cause symptoms," says Dr. Miles Weinberger, director of the Pediatric Allergy and Pulmonary Division at the University of Iowa.

And while artificial snow in aerosol cans can make the windows looks extra festive, the spray releases chemicals into the air that can trigger an asthma attack or an allergic reaction, Bassett says.

"Artificial snow is a no-no," he says. "it's almost like an air pollutant."

And the holidays "are a period of time when people may not suspect that they have allergies," he adds.

They're not on the lookout because "they're not putting together that there's a pattern around this time of year."

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