The holiday shopping season is revving up, and the time has come too to start thinking about decorations. If someone in your family has environmental allergies, potential triggers abound. Some precautions:
When it comes to choosing toys for a child with allergies, there is no hard-and-fast rule for what's best. While stuffed animals might seem risky, since they can be a haven for dust mites, there's a simple way to keep them safe for your child to play with. "Take the stuffed toy, put it in a freezer bag, and then put it in the freezer for three to five hours per week," advises Clifford Bassett, chair of the public education committee at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Freezing the toy kills the dust mites. When purchasing other types of toys, stick with products that are washable or easy to wipe off.
Considering a puppy or a kitten for a child who has other allergies? Think about conducting a test by visiting a friend or family member who has a pet to make sure your child doesn't get sick, suggests Martha White, an AAAAI fellow and research director at the Institute for Asthma & Allergy, a private practice in Maryland with offices in Wheaton and Chevy Chase. Spend 30 minutes or more around the pet, then observe the child for the next day or so to see if allergy symptoms develop. If your child has a known allergy to pets, it's best not to risk bringing an animal into your home, White says. There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, although some breeds, such as poodles and Portuguese water dogs—like the one President Obama's family chose because of daughter Malia's allergies—produce less dander.
When decorating for the holidays, keep in mind that live trees can carry mold spores or pollen. An artificial tree might be a better option if family members have allergies. But an improperly stored fake tree can pose other problems. Each year, put the artificial tree in a closed container or sealed bag before storing it, Bassett says. And wipe it down before you put it up each year to remove any dust.
The sorts of plants people use to make their homes more festive are usually OK, experts say. "Plants that you bring in at Christmastime are generally not pollen producers," White says. Still, the plants could carry some mold in their soil. To cut the risk of mold growth, water the plant sparsely and keep it in area that gets lots of sunlight.