The following was originally published during the Christmas season in 2011 at healthcentral.com/asthma.
Six Common Christmas Asthma Triggers
Christmas is a humble holiday where we spend time with our families, tell stories, teach virtues, and create memories. While the traditions of Christmas have evolved over the years, the challenge for asthmatics has not.
Back in the 19th Century kids would sit in front of a crackling fire looking up at grandpa as he spun the tale of Scrooge, or as grandma read passages from the Bible about the first Christmas, or as dad would play the violin, or as Aunt Dolly played Christmas tunes on the piano.
Those kinds of traditions have been replaced by hours sitting in front of a television waving our arms up and down and to and fro and cheering to the motions of a game on the Wii. Or perhaps the children spend time alone in the corner moving a stylus over a DSI, and occasionally getting up to use the restroom or grab one of mom's cookies.
Christmas in a sense is not the same. Trying to teach kids the true meaning of Christmas, that giving is more important than getting, that spending time with family is more important than playing frivolous games, is a challenge in today's fast paced technological world.
That same technology has made life better for us asthmatics in many ways too, as we have medicine now that was not available back in the "good ole days." Yet in a way, many things are unchanged in regards to asthma and allergies.
1. Christmas trees: We still find this to be a common family tradition. Yet what caused allergies back in the 19th century still causes allergies. Molds and fungus still grow on spruce trees, and still cause grief for many asthmatics.
Technology, however, allows for people who are allergic to real trees to splurge on a fake tree. Now this works great for year #1 as the tree is unpackaged fresh out of the box. Yet on year two the tree is taken out of storage with a plume of dust. So the traditional Christmas tree may not be so great for asthmatics.
2. Stress: As moms and dads we want everything to work out just perfect. Yet the stress involved here can be overwhelming. In the 19th century a child would be tickled pink just to get a piece of chocolate or a rag doll or a home made dress. Yet it took lots of hard work, time and money to make and obtain these humble gifts.
Today the gifts our children want have changed. Simply spending time with them, or telling a story, are nerdy and boring. And peeling kids away from their toys to teach virtues is an arduous task. So what kids expect has changed, yet stress is still a common cause of asthma during the rush to perfect this holiday for the kids.
And despite conflicting arguments, stress is still considered to be an asthma trigger for many of us asthmatics.
3. Smoke and incense: Cigarette smoking wasn't so popular in the 19th century, but an occasional pipe was. Yet that wasn't so big of a deal (right?) because back then smoking was actually recommended for asthmatics (Honestly! It was!)
However, back then there was a fireplace in every room to keep it warm, and there were oil lamps for lighting. When I was a kid we had a fire place and dad used it pretty much only once a year, and it caused me some hardluck with my asthma on that day.
Incense and scented candles are more popular today than fires in fireplaces, yet the same principle applies: anything in the air can be an asthma trigger.
4. Cold air: So if you decided to follow tradition in the 19th century to cut a Christmas tree down, your asthma may act up. It's 20 degrees outside after all. The ride back in your buggy in the open elements doesn't help much. Yet you don't want to ruin the family tradition, so you try to suck it up.
Not much has changed in that department, except you can buy a fake tree. Yet, as I wrote above, fake trees have asthma triggers all their own. Yet sledding, skiing and other outdoor activities with the kids during Christmas break may be out of the picture for you.
5. Dusty boxes: Not much has changed here either. Christmas decorations are often stored in boxes in the cellar or basement or attack, and when you hunt for them you're exposed to dust and molds. You open the boxes up to a plume of dust. This isn't always so fun for the asthmatic lungs. It also causes annoying sniffling and sneezing. Sorry for the inconvenience folks, yet it's an unfortunate reality.
6. Plants and flowers: Decorating homes and churches with plants and flowers is a tradition that goes way back. Yet what bothered an asthmatic in the 17th century still triggers asthma today. For us folks who are allergic to plants and flowers and the allergens that come with them, this fun tradition may not be so fun after all.
To get the most out of the season, we asthmatics need to be aware that some of the traditions we enjoy so much may be asthma triggers. While we don't want this to be the focus our the season, it's important we know what the potential asthma dangers are and how we can get around them.
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