Dusting off Christmas decorations may be an exciting time for many, but for the two million Aussies with asthma, the season to be jolly can trigger more wheezing than merriment.
The National Asthma Council Australia is warning Australians with asthma to approach the festive season with caution, saying decorations, scented candles and even the humble Christmas tree can harbour hidden asthma triggers.
“Most people are unaware that Cypress and pine trees produce high amounts of pollen and pollen can trigger hay fever symptoms and asthma, especially when the trees are displayed indoors,” National Asthma Council Australia Chief Executive Officer Kristine Whorlow said.
“Artificial trees may seem like a safe alternative, but these trees are often used year after year and they can accumulate dust and even mould in storage and both of these are common asthma triggers.”
To minimise the Christmas wheeze, the National Asthma Council Australia recommends vacuuming artificial trees and decorations as you get them out of the box, unpacking them outside if possible and wiping down artificial trees before putting them up inside.
Other potential triggers include dusty decorations, highly scented candles and emotional ups and downs including laughter and stress.
“If you have asthma, it’s important to be aware of your asthma triggers and manage them if possible,” Ms Whorlow said.
“You should also continue to follow the personal written asthma action plan that you have developed with your doctor. Make sure you have your medication with you and take it as advised by your doctor, even if you are out partying or away on holidays.”
The asthma action plan can also be stored on your smartphone and easily accessed from anywhere via the Asthma Buddy iPhone and Android app. Visit www.nationalasthma.org.au for more information.
The National Asthma Council Australia offers the following tips to help people who have asthma avoid Christmas triggers:
- Don’t let the greens make you blue: Christmas trees and other holiday greenery are associated with several possible allergens. Stay clear of real Christmas trees if you are allergic to Cyprus or pine pollens.
- Store Christmas decorations correctly: After spending the year in storage artificial Christmas trees and decorations can be covered in dust – a common trigger. Store decorations in closeable plastic tubs or containers to help keep them dust-free during the off-season. Also, be sure to thoroughly clean your tree outside before putting it up and decorating it. ￼
- Choose allergy-friendly decorations: Use plastic, metal or glass decorations that are easy to clean.
- Be careful when spraying: When spraying artificial snow on windows or other surfaces be sure to follow directions. These sprays can irritate your lungs if you inhale them.
- Avoid scented candles and oil: These popular Christmas gifts can irritate sensitive noses, making it harder for people with asthma and allergies to breathe.
(Source: National Asthma Council Australia)