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Your Best Holiday Season Ever!
On December 5, 2013 @ 3:44 pm In All Articles,Featured
Lights sparkle. Cookies bake. Music plays quietly. And conversation flows around the dinner table. The holidays are here – the season for giving, and giving thanks.
The most wonderful time of the year? You can make it so – and asthma and allergies don’t have to get in the way of your holiday celebrations and family traditions, says Andrea Jensen of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Andrea and her children – including two sons in college (living at home) and a teenage daughter in junior high – have asthma. In years past, the hustle, bustle and good cheer of the holiday season has often been accompanied by stress.
“Sometimes you try to be the perfect family and you feel that you have to do everything, and it creates stress,” says Andrea, who blogs about her life as an asthma mom at http://asthmamomlife.blogspot.com . “Last year we thought, ‘Let’s pull back and just enjoy family and friends.’ That really seemed to helped.”
It’s difficult to escape stress during the holidays: shopping in overcrowded malls, searching for the perfect gift; planning, coordinating and cooking dinners and parties for family, friends and neighbors; or traveling long distances to visit relatives.
Studies show that stress – particularly chronic stress – can worsen allergy and asthma symptoms, says Talal Nsouli, MD, a Washington, D.C., allergist and former Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA) board member.
During stressful situations, your body releases a chemical that makes the muscles around your airways tighten, causing difficulty breathing. Stress can also weaken the immune system, inviting winter colds, flu and asthma episodes.
“Asthma and allergy patients can control stress by eating healthy, avoiding caffeine products, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep,” Dr. Nsouli says.
Adds Andrea: “When I’m stressed, I can feel my chest get tighter. I have to remind myself, ‘Calm down, relax – you can handle this.’ Often I use a deep breathing technique in which I slowly breathe in through the nose and exhale through my mouth. This helps steady my airflow.”
Time management is an essential key to minimizing stress in the Jensen home. Andrea maintains a wall calendar that details everyone’s daily schedule. And this year, she got an early start preparing for the holidays. “We took our family photo in September, we ordered the holiday cards and had them addressed and stamped early, too!” Andrea says. “I’ve also bought little containers so we can give treats to the neighbors.”
Positive and proactive, the Jensens focus on nurturing family relationships, and those precious moments when traditions are created and memories made.
John and Joanne Morton of Duxbury, Mass., love to go out to eat during the holidays and have mastered ways to make it fun and safe for their 12-year-old son William, who is allergic to egg, peanut and tree nuts.
“We establish an open dialogue with managers and servers – and sometimes chefs – to help ensure William receives a safe meal,” Joanne says. “We stress his food allergies to servers, but there’s always a chance for miscommunication. These days you often get more than one server, and you cannot take for granted that every person serving your table is informed, so start a dialogue with each.”
Good advice is to call the restaurant ahead of time to make sure they are able to prepare an allergen-free meal. Read the menu closely and ask about ingredients.
“If the restaurant staff is confusing food allergies with gluten-free, for example, this is a red flag for us and we won’t eat there,” Joanne says. “The more you talk with the staff, the more you develop an intuition whether the restaurant is a safe place to dine.”
Reminder: always carry a pair of epinephrine auto-injectors in case of an accidental exposure.
With a dash of planning and a pinch of fun, Norman Rockwell visions of the holidays can be yours to share.
Like many families, the Jensens travel hours to visit relatives during the holidays. Some live in warmer climates and the sudden changes in temperature and humidity can cause asthma symptoms to worsen.
Staying with relatives presents challenges when there are pets in the house, as dander can lead to asthma episodes, Andrea says. Most relatives are well aware of her family’s asthma, so they’ll help by vacuuming the house prior to a visit. In the guest bedrooms, they’ll put on fresh linens and bed covers.
Andrea takes her anti-inflammatory asthma medication daily and she reminds her kids to do the same, in accordance with their asthma action plans. This helps prevent airway inflammation if allergens are present.
“We always pack lots of extra allergy medication, plus all of our equipment: the nebulizers, peak flow meters and inhalers,” Andrea says.
Food allergies also impact the Jensen family – Andrea is allergic to seafood and her youngest son is allergic to tree nuts – and they carry epinephrine auto-injectors wherever they go. During visits, Andrea gently reminds relatives about her family’s food allergies.
“Don’t expect all of them to remember, because bless their hearts, they’re busy and they forget,” she says. “You have to be your own advocate. If there’s a potluck, check on the ingredients of all the dishes. And I always fix something I know my family can eat.”
With careful planning, the holidays can truly become the most wonderful time of the year.
By Gary Fitzgerald
Reviewed by Martha Hogan, MD, Talal Nsouli, MD, and Tera Crisalida, PA-C
Article printed from Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics: http://www.aanma.org
URL to article: http://www.aanma.org/2013/12/your-best-holiday-season-ever/
URLs in this post:
 Image: http://www.aanma.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Destress.jpg
 http://asthmamomlife.blogspot.com: http://asthmamomlife.blogspot.com
 firstname.lastname@example.org: mailto:email@example.com
 Fearless Feasting: Remember Anaphylaxis Medication During the Holidays: http://www.aanma.org/2009/12/fearless-feasting-remember-anaphylaxis-medication-during-the-holidays/
 Bring on the Holiday Yummies: http://www.aanma.org/2011/12/bring-on-the-holiday-yummies/
 Home for the Holidays: http://www.aanma.org/2009/12/home-for-the-holidays/
 What’s a Nut?: http://www.aanma.org/2009/02/what%e2%80%99s-a-nut/
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