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What's Up Magazine

Ho! Ho! Choo!

Dec 11, 2012 07:20PM ● By Anonymous

Just when you thought it was safe to inhale again: Spring pollen is months away, grass and weeds are mostly dormant, stinging insects have gone wherever it is they go in cold weather, and most of the leaves have not only fallen but have already been raked and removed. Take a well-earned deep breath and…Hold it! Not so fast, wheezy. The Grinch Who Sneezed Christmas is about to come down the chimney. [Our apologies to Theodor Geisel and Boris Karloff.]

Take a good look at the charming, evocative photo above—the idyllic holiday-home standard we all try to achieve. It’s enough to bring a tear to your eye and make you glow with a warm feeling all over. Of course the watery eyes and the flushed face and torso could also be a sign that you are having an allergic reaction…so let’s really examine this sentimental seasonal scene:

Fresh greens, we see, have been used a-plenty on the mantel to continue a tradition practiced by ancient Celts and Druids well before the first Christmas. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, some people are allergic to the oil or sap of trees, wreaths and garlands, or the pollen found on greens. They suggest you use a leaf blower to remove excess pollen, and wash a live tree, especially the trunk, with a garden hose and place it in a bucket of water in a covered area outside to dry. Always wear gloves, they admonish, when handling trees and greens.

And speaking of Druids, they considered mistletoe a holy and magical plant. We now know that kissing up to mistletoe can result in an allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Opt for a sprig of fake mistletoe—the kiss will still be real.

Let’s talk about those warm, twinkly candles. Bayberry perhaps? Vanilla or cinnamon? You might just as well hand out pump misters of Afrin when your guests arrive. Candles, thank goodness, do come in an unscented version, and the light affect is just as cozy.

We’ve got good news and bad news about that poinsettia on the mantel. Turns out these quintessential holiday plants are not poisonous, according to the Mayo Clinic. (Eating them can give you an upset tummy, though.) What you do have to look out for with a poinsettia is a contact rash much like poison ivy. If you have a latex allergy you are especially susceptible—they actually share similar proteins. If a mild reaction does occur, wash the affected area with soap and water and apply a cool compress to reduce itching. If the condition is more severe, seek immediate medical treatment.

Those stockings that are hung by the chimney with care had better be stored as carefully from year to year. Dust, mold, and mildew are cause for concern. And make sure the stockings are completely empty when you put them away for the year. That broken piece of candy cane just might attract the wrong crowd. Also, here’s hoping the stockings are made out of velvet as opposed to hive-causing wool.

And let’s not forget that inviting fireplace. If you simply cannot resist a fire and don’t want to go the gas route, it is important to be aware of your indoor air quality. It’s a good idea to have your chimney cleaned before your first fi re of the season. This is a good time to check that your flue is functioning properly as well. If you use a fi replace screen, switch to the glass doors—you can still see the hypnotic flames, but will have less smoke and soot floating around.

One last thought about this enticing hearth: the leather chairs are ideal for all your allergic family and friends. Just make sure you keep them well dusted. The chairs, not the family and friends.