Fear not, shoppers the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) and its allergist members, doctors who are experts at diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma, offer these gift-giving tips:
— Go easy on edibles – “Food allergens lurk in all kinds of holiday treats, from fruitcake which may contain nuts, to cookies made with wheat,” said allergist Myron Zitt, MD, past-president of ACAAI. To be safe, avoid food gifts. A better bet is a gift certificate to the recipient’s favorite restaurant. Also consider non-food items sure to please any foodie such as attractive plates, serving platters or a fun kitchen gadget.
— Pause at the pet shop – Little ones may beg for a furry friend, but pet dander, saliva and urine from cats and dogs can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms which will certainly put a damper on holiday cheer. Instead, consider a hypoallergenic stuffed animal that’s machine washable. Parents, remember to wash it weekly in hot water to rid it of allergy- and asthma-triggering dust mites.
— Go for the gold – Jewelry may seem like a safe bet, but many people have a nickel allergy, frequently found in costume jewelry. If 18 karat gold is too much for your budget, consider an alternative gift like a watch with a plastic band in case the recipient is allergic to leather.
— Be cautious of clothing – A festive holiday sweater may be in style but if it’s made with angora (rabbit fur) or wool (including cashmere) your friend with itchy eczema will feel miserable rather than fashionable. If you want to give clothing, pick something made of 100 percent cotton.
— Please, no perfumes – Perfume, candles, soaps or lotions won’t pamper those who sneeze from strong scents or may even break out in a rash. Shop at stores that feature allergen free products, like health food stores, or, when in doubt, consider a department store gift certificate.
— Pass on the poinsettia – Nothing says the holidays like poinsettias, but it can mean trouble for those with a latex allergy (the plant is in the rubber tree family). Flowers in general can make people with allergies sniff and sneeze. If you insist on bestowing blooms, consider roses and orchids, which tend to be less of a problem for allergy sufferers.