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Christmas asthma triggers for children

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Deck the halls with asthma triggers?

It’s that time of year again, when parents drag dusty decorations out of the loft, and place live trees laden with last summer’s mould and pollen in the middle of the living room. All in all, Christmas is brimming with asthma triggers for children.

Each individual's asthma triggers differ. However, from an indoor environmental perspective, the primary asthma triggers include second-hand smoke, pet dander, mould, dust mites, and pest droppings. During the winter months, many people spend more time indoors, so steps should be taken to reduce or eliminate exposure to these environmental asthma triggers.

How can you help your children enjoy Christmas free of asthma?

Be wary of Christmas bugs

No, not the kind with wings, but respiratory infections, which run rampant during the cold winter months, particularly during Christmas, when families travel long distances with millions of other sneezing and coughing merry-makers.

Asthma flare-ups are frequently due to infections, and visiting relatives and parties can help spread colds and flu.

How can respiratory infections be avoided in your children? Your first option is to stay at home during Christmas and your second is to make sure your children wash their hands, a lot. Proper hand washing, a good scrubbing with warm water and soap for at least 15 seconds, can reduce the number of germs your children pick up over the course of the day, which in turn helps lower the risk of catching a cold and triggering asthma. It’s also important to teach your children about general hygiene, especially that everyone with a cold or flu who sneezes should cover their mouth and nose, and do so into either a disposable tissue, or into the crook of their elbow.

It's starting to smell a lot like Christmas

Perfumed candles and festive air fresheners are popular, but can trigger asthma symptoms. When planning visits to relatives, it is worth checking their plans for Christmas scents.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

While it sounds like a nice place for your child to cosy up after a big Christmas feast, fireplaces can trigger asthma.

Open fireplaces release some smoke into the room and particles in the air can cause asthma symptoms.

Also beware of visits to relatives who smoke in their homes.

Oh, Christmas tree

While a tree in itself might not trigger an asthma attack, what’s on it certainly could.

Real Christmas trees usually have leftover mould on them, or pollen, and many people with asthma have an increased difficulty breathing when you bring a live tree in the house and you warm it up.

And then there are the artificial trees and dusty decorations that have been sitting in the loft, garage or back of a cupboard for 11 months.

A Christmas tree all lit up with warm lights and decorated with old bulbs is a perfect recipe for asthma trouble in children, so wipe it down with a damp cloth before you set it up in the middle of your living room to remove outdoor allergens. Before you drag your Christmas storage containers out of the loft, give them a good dusting so they’re free of mites, pest droppings and other unpleasant Christmas treats, and wash decorations in soapy water before you put them on the tree.

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