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Always Have Headaches, Congestion During the Holidays? The Cause Might Surprise You

Did you ever think that your Christmas décor might be causing your pesky cold-like symptoms? Allergic reactions mimic cold symptoms.  Even though it is wintertime, there are a lot of allergic triggers in the environment that can make you sick with headaches, congestion, coughing and shortness of breath.  If you’ve been suffering from cold-like symptoms lasting longer than two weeks, you might actually be dealing with seasonal allergies instead.

To help you enjoy a healthy holiday season this year, here are a few tips to identify allergy triggers and the solutions to help you feel your best.

The holiday decoration triggers: The mold on the Christmas tree trunk, the terpene in the evergreen sap or a year’s worth of dust on the ornaments brought down from the attic. Dust mites are always very attracted to real and artificial trees and decorations.

The solution:  Clean and dehumidify.

Wash or hose down the live tree before bringing inside and, if possible, clean the artificial tree and ornaments.  Store your ornaments in air tight containers to prevent dust and mold accumulation. Also, avoid poinsettias if you have a latex allergy.  They are a member of the rubber tree family.

Sitting by the fire or scented candles: Temperature changes and emissions can trigger respiratory congestion or asthma flares.

The solution: Move away from the fireplace or candles.

Cold air can also trigger asthma. Wear a scarf over your nose and mouth when going outside to lessen the chance of an asthma attack. Some peoples’ lungs are sensitive to respiratory-inhaled irritants, like sitting by the fireplace or near scented candles. This can cause lung congestion and lead to coughing.   The best thing to do would be avoidance.

Closing up the house: Cold weather arrives about the same time as the holidays. We close doors and windows and turn on the heat.  This causes a concentration of allergens that otherwise may not bother you in warmer months. Staying inside exposes you to, dust mites, mold, pet dander, smoke, and heating system emissions that can make you sick.  What to do?

The Solution: Dust mites like to live in mattresses, pillows, and bedding. In the winter, we’re not opening windows as much, not ventilating as much, so it’s important to cover your mattress and pillows with a dust mite cover, wash your bedding with hot water every two weeks and keep your room as clean as possible. One of the biggest carriers of dust mites? Stuffed animals! But there is a quick fix. Place them in the freezer for 12 hours or so every 2 weeks, it can kill off the dust mites.”

Common areas for household mold are bathroom fixtures, walls and shower curtains, basements and window moldings.  Dehumidify these areas and clean with a mold-specific disinfectant.  With proper ventilation and a good dehumidifier, you can limit the presence of these allergens in your home

Notice a sudden irritation every time your furry friend is around? You’re likely allergic to pet dander. Keep the pets out of the bedroom, wash the pet once or twice a week, and wash the rugs where the pets lie for starters.  Vacuum and mop regularly for cat and dog dander. Use HEPA air cleaners and filters to capture the dander floating in the air.

Still suffering? Seek expert advice and identify your triggers.

In order to properly treat any allergy issues that could arise during the holidays, you’ll need to seek expert advice. If you’ve tried over-the-counter allergy medications and haven’t found relief, it’s time to have a skin test to identify your triggers. Allergy skin testing, using no needles, will identify your allergy triggers in 20 minutes. Once you identify your triggers, allergists can provide detailed, effective environmental control plans for your specific triggers, and, if necessary, a personalized medication treatment plan. One appointment with an allergist can identify your allergy triggers, discuss effective controls and develop a treatment plan that will keep you feeling well all winter long.

Feel better. Sleep better. Look better. See an allergist.

Learn more about Allergy & Asthma Specialists here.

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Feel better. Sleep better. Look better.
See an allergist.

Twelve board-certified allergists, along with nursing staff and respiratory therapists trained in the care of allergy patients, staff eight convenient locations in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs. Schedule an allergy testing online at or by calling 1-800-86COUGH.




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