'Tis the Season to Be Sniffly


"Most flowers that have a strong floral scent can aggravate allergies, asthma and sinus problems. It's not the flowers themselves, it's the scent. The fragrance irritates the lining of your eyes, throat, lungs, and nose and it feels like an allergy but it's actually a pseudo-allergy," says Bassett.

Even reusable centerpieces made up of artificial flowers can be problematic, he adds, because they are difficult to clean and can gather mold and dust if not stored properly in between holidays.

If you want to go with fresh flowers for your holiday table, Bassett recommends staying away from particularly fragrant blossoms such as crocus, elderberry, peonies, lilies, freesia, or roses. Instead, ask the florist to make up an arrangement of less odorous blooms, such as daisies, gerbers, tulips, amaryllis, and alstroemeria.

Choosing non-floral items is another option, such as gourds, holly, pine cones, or paper decorations.

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.

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