Allercy and Asthma Health
The Official Publication of AAN - MA

Giving Thanks: How To Have a Trigger-Free Thanksgiving
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By Claire Aloan, MS, RRT-NPS, FAARC

Yes, it's almost time for the BIG day — turkey, dressing, pie, and of course, good company — to add to our enjoyment. And maybe even some football!

We would all like to get through the day without any mishaps, other than that slightly overstuffed feeling (our own, not the turkey's)! So here are a few things to keep in mind that can help make the day more enjoyable for everyone.

If you have food allergies…

Holiday foods often include common ingredients that may be triggers for some people, including wheat, soy, dairy, and nuts. Avoid self-basting turkeys, which may contain these ingredients. A natural turkey is just turkey and water, so that's your best bet for staying safe.

Stuffing usually contains bread made with wheat, so try something different, like cornbread stuffing. Mashed potatoes are often made with milk and butter, but chicken broth and margarine work really well too. And corn starch works great for gravy thickening if you need to avoid wheat flour. Pumpkin allergy is very rare but the pie crust is usually made with wheat, so consider alternatives for dessert.

Be sure to discuss all of these issues with your host if you are eating away from home, and think about bringing some foods with you that you know are safe, including some safe snacks.

If you have environmental triggers…

If you are away from home, be careful of things like scented soaps and candles that may act as triggers. If you are visiting a home with a pet, you may need to take medications prior to the visit if you want to avoid symptoms. Just putting the cat in another room doesn't work, as pet dander goes everywhere and is difficult to eliminate.

If you are staying overnight, pack your own pillow or bring an allergen-proof pillow cover. Let your hosts know you have some allergies and ask them to wash the bedding in hot water and to vacuum and dust thoroughly before you arrive. Keeping pets out of your sleeping room is also a great idea.

Be sure to discuss any of these triggers with your host, as well as find out if tobacco smoke or a wood-burning fireplace could pose problems during the visit. No smoking in the house for several days before you arrive is a good way to avoid the lingering effects of smoke.

Don't forget your medications

Make sure you are taking your controller medications, and bring a rescue inhaler with you just in case. And get a flu shot before you go so you won't be exposed to all those germs from your friends and relatives.

Most important of all: have a GREAT and SAFE Thanksgiving celebration!

Respiratory therapist Claire Aloan is a Fellow of the American Association for Respiratory Care who currently serves as director of respiratory care services at Rochester Regional Health in Rochester, NY.

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