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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.”

One troublemaker around the holidays is a common household item: dust.

When decorations are stored in attics and cellars for months before the holidays, they tend to gather dust and even mold, which can cause adverse reactions.

Combine the dust stirred up by a dozen or so trips to the basement with the dry air blowing around by a central heating system and it’s a perfect storm for those with dust allergies, Daines notes.

“Anytime someone is up in the attic getting things out or turning on the furnace for the first time of the season,” he says, “and it blows dust out of the ducts — [it] can make anyone with asthma have a mild flare.”

So if you’re noticing a runny nose and itchy eyes that may not be just the beginnings of a cold, Bassett suggests taking steps to reduce the dust.

Wipe down dusty decorations before putting them out and make sure to bring your allergy medication with you when you travel to help reduce symptoms, and be prepared in case of an allergic episode.

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