Holiday Allergies: Myths vs. Facts

December 22, 2015

 

 

Tis the season! With the holiday season just around the corner, millions of Americans are preparing to gather for feasts, decorate their homes and travel to visit relatives. With that in mind, there are many common myths that surround the season. Here are 4 common holiday allergy myths debunked that will help keep your season jolly!

 

1. Myth: Water chestnuts are a nut.

 

    Fact: Although the name refers to them as a nut, they are not a nut at all; they are a vegetable that is grown in the marshes. The reason they are called water chestnuts is because they resemble the chestnut in shape and color.

 

 

2. Myth: Almond extract always contains almonds.

 

    Fact: Most almond extracts are now made with apricot seeds rather than almonds. While many ‘nut allergic’  individuals will be able to tolerate this it is best to do so first in a doctor’s office as there are similar molecules in tree nuts and apricot pits (seeds).

 

 

3. Myth: Frangellica and Amaretto contain high quantities of nuts.

 

    Fact: Many people with a nut allergy are able to tolerate Frangellica despite being made with

hazelnuts as well as Amaretto, labeled an almond liqueur.  The amount of glycoproteins in the amaretto or Frangellica’s final product is likely to be so small that even if prepared with an almond or hazelnut extract most likely a food allergic person would tolerate.  If the flavoring is infused prior to distilling there is virtually no risk but, if it is infused after distilling a person with nut allergies could react.

 

Disaronno Originale Amaretto although it has a bittersweet almond taste, does not contain almonds or nuts. It is described as containing apricot kernel oil. The manufacturer states that this drink is nut-free. Thus, one cannot apply a carte blanche rule to each and every liqueur.

The risk is very small of a patient allergic to nuts reacting to a liqueur which contains the essence of nuts in a well-distilled product. However, unfortunately, the only way that you could know for sure would be to do an oral challenge to the liqueur in an allergist’s office. We have done oral challenges to alcoholic products previously, and they are not difficult to do; the only caveat of course is that the patient should have a driver to take them home.

 

 

4. Myth: Pine tree allergy is what causes people to react to Christmas trees.

 

   Fact: Does your Christmas tree make you sneeze or cause shortness of breath? It’s unlikely that you are allergic to the tree itself, but the fragrance may be irritating. Some trees may also be home to microscopic mold spores that trigger asthma or allergies, causing symptoms like sneezing or an itchy nose. Mold is one of the biggest problems with live Christmas trees. If you are experiencing these symptoms like sneezing, itchy nose, shortness of breath, use an artificial tree or, if you must have the real thing, wash the tree and branches with plenty of water, let the tree dry in a garage or enclosed porch for a week and give it a good shake prior to bringing it inside.

 

 

Happy Holidays!

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