This webinar was recorded on November 8, 2022
Allergies and asthma are a challenge to manage on a regular day and the holidays create new obstacles to plan around. Join us as we share practical, every day tips and tricks on managing allergies and asthma to make this the best holiday celebration yet!
- Andrea M. Jensen, CHES®, AE-C
- Lorene Alba, AE-C
This transcript is automatically generated. While this transcript is believed to be accurate, errors sometimes occur. It remains your responsibility to evaluate the accuracy and completeness of the information in this transcript. This transcript is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice.
Speaker 1 (00:05)
I can hardly believe it’s November already. The holidays are just about here, and for families living with allergies and asthma, it can create some challenges. Today we’ll talk about challenges and considerations and will share some great tips. My name is Sally Schoessler and I’m Director of Education at Allergy and Asthma Network. Thank you so much for joining us today. Every day, Allergy and Asthma Network works to live out our mission to end the needless death and suffering due to asthma allergies and related conditions through outreach, education, advocacy and research. Today we’re joined by two speakers who have a lot to share with you. We have Lorene Alba, who has been living with severe persistent asthma for about 30 years. 15 years ago, her asthma forced her to leave her successful career as a chef and restaurant owner. She switched careers and became a certified asthma educator to help others living with this condition. Ms. Alba specializes in developing asthma guidelines based, education for clinicians, community health workers, and people living with asthma allergies as well as their caregivers. She developed the online course called Asthma Basics for the American Lung Association and founded the Asthma Management Academy for Community Health Workers for the California Department of Public Health.
Speaker 1 (01:30)
She has presented her work at conferences such as the American Public Health Association and is published in peer reviewed journals and has worked at the national level for the American Lung Association and Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. She is an asthma allergy and food allergy content developer and editor for Asthma net, Allergies Net and daily Breathforcast.com. On her asthmaef.com blog, she focuses on how diet can impact asthma. We also have with us Andrea Jensen, who is a colleague of mine, and she has a Bachelor of Science in Public Health from Utah Valley University. She’s a nationally certified health education specialist and a certified asthma educator. She founded the asthma program at Utah County Health Department in 2009. She provided asthma education and outreach in her county before beginning an asthma home visit program, providing one on one home visits and guidelines based asthma education to help residents and help them achieve better asthma outcomes. Andrea Is past Chair of the Utah Asthma Task Force, past president of the Utah Society of Public Health Educators, former editorial board member for Allergy and Asthma Network, and former executive board member of association of Asthma Educators. Andrea Authors an award-winning blog my Life as an Asthma Mom she shares accurate information from reputable sources and updates on new medications.
Speaker 1 (03:03)
She also writes articles for Asthma.net and Allergies.net. This year she has joined Allergy and Asthma Network as our education specialist, and we’ve been so pleased to have her on staff. Andrea has a family of five, all of whom have allergies, four have asthma and two have food allergies. Allergy and education has become her passion and now helping others is her career. In her free time she enjoys traveling, interior design projects, chocolate and reading, although not necessarily in that order. So we’re very happy to have both of you ladies with us, and thank you for sharing this fabulous information with us.
Speaker 2 (03:45)
Thank you, Sally. And thank you for the great introduction. So today we’re going to talk about managing stress as an asthma and allergy trigger, the scent of the season, where to stay, managing environmental triggers, and how to pack for a successful holiday. So, we are going to start with a poll question. How much does your stress level increase over the holidays? A little. A lot. And Sally is going to let us know what our poll numbers show on this.
Speaker 1 (04:20)
The holidays can be stressful for any of us. It doesn’t matter if you have asthma allergies, but that just sometimes adds extra stress. So what we’re looking for you to answer today is to select one of the following. How much does your stress increase over the holidays? It pushes me to or beyond my limits. It increases, but it’s manageable. My stress level is the same as always during the holidays, and I don’t feel any stress at all. So those are your choices. So we’ve got about half. Everyone has put their vote in, so if you could put your vote in quickly, I would love to share that with you. And just another second or two here to get everybody a chance to answer. Okay, here we go. So, 8% of you says it pushes you to or beyond my limits. I’m there sometimes on the holidays, but I think a lot of us fall into the next category. It increases, but it’s manageable. And then the 18% said my stress level is the same as always, and 6% don’t feel any stress at all. And I think I need to get to know you so that I could figure out how to do that.
Speaker 2 (05:35)
Thanks, Sally. I was thinking the same thing. I think the only person around me that doesn’t have a lot of stress is my yoga instructor. She does a great job with managing stress. So let’s talk about managing stress as an asthma trigger. So, is this your mental picture of the holidays? AW, isn’t that just sweet? A perfectly decorated tree sharing family traditions that picks your perfect dinner, which, of course, you have to take a photo and put that on Instagram. Spending time together with family. It’s all going to be so lovely. And this can be the reality. Oftentimes a big mess to clean up in the kitchen after family dinners. Lost luggage at the airport, delayed flights, missed flights, family disagreements about politics and religion. And today’s election day. So remember, everybody, lots of deep breaths. You might disagree with some family members. The other thing is with traveling is you can catch a virus during the holiday. Travel, get one of those horrible chest colds or pneumonia, and of course, there’s always burning the dessert. So what is stress? It’s really how we react when we are under pressure or feeling a little bit threatened.
Speaker 2 (06:56)
Also, being in a situation that we don’t feel we can manage or control, we can have stress when we have lots of responsibilities we are struggling to manage. This sounds a lot like the holidays and the extra added pressure, don’t you think? The stressor is not what causes us to feel the physical symptoms of stress. It’s really our reaction to what is happening around us that causes the symptoms. Stress is simply wishing our current situation was different. Accepting the situation for what it is can help reduce the physical symptoms of stress. So let’s all take a moment together to take a deep breath in and out. Are you ready? Deep breath in and out. Did you feel your shoulders go down and relax a little bit? Now put your hand on your heart and remind yourself that you are okay and you are loved. Do this as many times as you need to during the holidays. So how does stress affect asthma? Stress increases. Our stress levels tend to increase and sometimes very quickly depending on what’s happening in our lives or our jobs. Chemical release, well, that can make the muscles around the airways tighten, causing people to have a hard time breathing.
Speaker 2 (08:21)
Last is also the stress that can weaken our immune system. That can make it a little bit more likely for us to come down with a cold, flu, pneumonia, or even have an asthma episode. So what causes holiday stress? Where do we even start? Let’s start on the left side of the graphic here. And family. Family issues can often become exaggerated, especially when you haven’t seen each other for a while. Work. I don’t know about you, but often times our projects are due at years end and there’s extra stress to get those done. Our children, who we love and we really want the holidays to be special for them. So we plan a lot of extra activities. Health. Traveling to a new area can expose us to new or additional asthma triggers. Travel? We’ll talk more about that later. Loreen will cover that a little bit. Home decorating, baking, cleaning, finances. The holidays can be a really expensive time. Gifts, food, end of your bills, and the lack of sleep.
Speaker 2 (09:31)
Sleep? What is that? Does anybody get 8 hours of sleep these days? I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten 8 hours of sleep lately. So with stress management, we have a few tips from Center for Disease Control. So he’s a little one to one for stress management. So the first thing is really take a break from the news. Especially today since it’s election day. There are ways that you can stay informed without hearing or seeing traumatic events on the news. I really do not want to see the details or the photos of house fires and car accidents. I sometimes need to disconnect. Many people will take a break from the news or from social media. Second is take care of yourself. Eat healthy, exercise, get plenty of sleep, really give yourself a break. If you are feeling stressed, be kind to yourself. The third one is take care of your body. In addition to eating healthy, exercising and sleeping is to avoid excess alcohol, tobacco and other substances. And it’s really important not to skip any preventative screenings and get vaccinated. Four is make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you like to enjoy.
Speaker 2 (10:44)
For me, that’s an interior design project on my home, much to my husband’s chagrin. Any personal rest and renewal is vital, so whatever that means for you. Watch a sappy Hallmark movie, go for a drive to see the lights, take a nap, whatever you need to rest and renew a few more things. Talk to others. So talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you’re feeling. You can share your problems with your trusted person or people, whoever’s in your group. You can also write things in your journal that can help get things off your chest. Another option is to connect with community or faith-based organizations. They’re usually a safe place to share your burdens. Also avoiding alcohol and drugs, especially excess amounts. You might think they help, but they can cause other problems and increase the stress you’re already feeling. And last, recognize when you need more help. If you are thinking about suicide, talk to a psychologist, a social worker or a professional counselor. The National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline has a new three digit number, 988. Put that in your phones. I was sharing this with someone the other day and they said, Well, I’m not really that bad yet.
Speaker 2 (12:07)
And I told them this is really for any problem or crisis you’re going through. You don’t have to wait until you get that bad. If you have a relationship breakup, lose a job, get a bad medical diagnosis, anything in your life that you’re struggling with, you can reach out to this number. Just like when we tell patients to use their albuterol inhaler at the first sign of breathing trouble, instead of really waiting until they are gasping for air. Kind of the same thing with nine eight eight. It can be used at the first sign of a crisis. There are trained voices on the other end of the line to help you with the hard things in life. Let’s look at some of the holiday stress busters. You can shop for holiday gifts throughout the year. Some people are very organized this way to avoid the last minute rush. Or if you want to skip that, you can donate to your favorite charity in someone’s name. Or take your shopping money and run and go on a wonderful vacation. Some families like to do that instead. Speaking of remodeling projects, which I have a habit of doing, Don’t start time consuming and costly renovations to your home right before the holidays.
Speaker 2 (13:17)
For anyone that’s done a remodeling project, you know, they always go over time and they’re always over budget. Also, you can just say no to activities. It’s okay to decline invitations to parties, family outings, work parties, requests from schools and churches. Another thing you can do is to create family traditions that don’t require a lot of time or work to bring a smile inside, you can hang up special ornaments, suspend snowflakes from the ceiling, or decorate the house. One of the things you might see a lot on TV is the perfect family, the perfect house, and the perfect gifts. Those are all myths. Notice that ads and commercials, they are created to sell products. Notice how everyone is always laughing and having so much fun on the commercials. Remember, they’re actors. It’s fake. They just want you to buy their product. So last, ask for help. This can be really hard for a lot of us. It might not be done the way you want it to, but that’s okay. Let’s talk about the scent of the season. Fragrances can affect allergies and asthma, and often most of us have allergies and asthma. There can be a lot of things out there that can really bother us.
Speaker 2 (14:37)
So fragrances and skin care products, colognes, perfumes, moisturizers, soaps, deodorizers, aftershaves air fresheners, plug in, deodorizers, and the list goes on and on and on. And they can all affect our allergies and asthma. They may make things smell nice, but really, all the chemicals that are in those may not be a good friend to our immune system at holidays. Other things can pop up like scented candles, scented pine cones, Christmas trees, potpourri, cinnamon brooms at the grocery store, etc. Etc. Fragrances are a common asthma trigger, and one function can change when we are exposed to strong odors that can cause an asthma exacerbation. And we can start coughing and wheezing, remove the odor or remove yourself from the situation if you can, and always have your inhaler handy. Did you know that 41% of people with asthma report health problems from air fresheners or deodorizers? That’s one of those little asthma triggers most people don’t know about. Asthma triggers are hard to avoid during the holidays, such as smoking. And don’t forget vaping, food, sensitivities, exercise, stress, dust mites and insects, allergies and pollen. Poor air quality, especially if you happen to be in a big city.
Speaker 2 (16:00)
Pollution illnesses, medication, pets, strong odors, and weather changes. Try as we might, sometimes it’s really difficult to get away from some of these things. The tips for managing strong odors for allergies and asthma is really trying to avoid secondhand smoke and thirdhand smoke. Third hand smoke can be a lot harder to avoid because it can linger on clothing and furniture, even inside cars, and that can cause an asthma exacerbation. Consider using cleaning and personal care products that are odor and fragrance free. You may have to ask family and friends to limit their perfume, and you probably are going to have to remind them several times I had to do this with the secretary I had at my last job. Make sure your home and workplace are well ventilated. One thing people don’t realize is if your office or your home smells a little bit stale, the first thing they want to do is just kind of covered
up that smell. With air fresheners or candles, it’s more important to increase the air exchanges in your home and make sure that you’re having the fresh air coming in rather than trying to mask what’s already there. So navigating the scents while shopping, this can be really difficult, especially at the grocery store.
Speaker 2 (17:16)
They have that holiday aisle, and they have bags of heavily scented pine cones, scented candles. I try to avoid the aisle. If I’m at the department store, I avoid the perfume counter. And try to stay away from the hopeful little people that want to give you just a little spray sample on your wrist. Be careful going down the laundry soap aisle. Oftentimes I need to time it, grab what I need and turn around and get off and down another aisle. Try to avoid people wearing perfume, cologne, or body spray. Also, easier said than done. I had an appointment with a pulmonologist last week, and he was wearing heavy cologne. You’d think he would know better. I was wearing my mask, so that helps filter some of the cologne. But it was one of those colognes that is so strong it could actually taste it. So let’s talk about where to stay when you travel, and Lorenz going to take it from here.
Speaker 1 (18:12)
But before we get further, we’re going to do another poll question.
Speaker 3 (18:16)
Speaker 2 (18:16)
Speaker 1 (18:17)
The next poll question is, when traveling, where do you stay? So we’re going to look at this. Do you stay at a hotel or a motel? Do you stay at other people’s homes, or do you stay in a rental like an airbnb or VRBO? We’re not endorsing any products or places on this program, but if you could please just choose for us to let us know. Where do you usually stay when you travel? And again, I’m thinking about the holidays. So is it usually a hotel or motel? Is it other people’s homes? It can be a family member’s house. We always end up at my daughter’s house for Christmas. It could be a rental which is airbnb or like that VRBO. Those have become so popular. So if you could quickly put your answer in, about half the people have voted so far, and we’ll be able to share these results in just a matter of moments. Okay, here we go. Most of you stay in a motel or a hotel. 69%. That’s a very decisive number. About 25% stay in other people’s homes, and about 5% stay in a rental like an airbnb. So that’s very interesting.
Speaker 1 (19:34)
Thank you for sharing, Lorene.
Speaker 3 (19:37)
Thank you, Sally. And thank you so much to the Allergy and Asthma Network for having me today and to Andrea for all those great tips. So I am going to provide some tips on what happens when you have to stay in different places and you have asthma allergies and how you can manage some of those triggers. So we see most of you stay at hotels and motels according to the poll, which is great. But there’s some things to remember if you stay in a hotel. Some of them are independently owned and some of them might be corporate owned. So just because you stay at a Days Inn in Chicago and you feel like you know their policies and practices, you might stay at a Days Inn in rural Indiana that’s owned by somebody different. And again, not promoting any particular brand here, but just saying that hotels might have different policies depending where they are and who they’re owned by. So it’s something to think about when you’re making your reservations. You know, rental homes like VRBO and Airbnb offer some good options now when there’s certain things that we need and accommodations, we can look for those in particular homes because they’re not so cookie cutter like hotel rooms, so they are often a good option.
Speaker 3 (20:52)
And sometimes we do stay at families and there could be all kinds of things happening in the family’s home. Right. So we’ll talk about managing some of those triggers as well. So there are things to consider when renting a place to stay when you have asthma. Allergies right, so one is the pool. I know everyone loves to get a hotel with a pool. It’s great for the kids, you know, nice activity. But pools can be a problem. Indoor and outdoor pools may have a strong smell of chemicals like chlorine. Indoor pool rooms may harbor mold or feel really humid and stuffy and make it very hard for you to breathe in them. So I always like to check out the pool area first before I get in my swimsuit and head on down just to make sure that it’s safe for me. If you can smell again the chlorine or any chemicals, you might want to skip the pool. One thing about hotel rooms is you can’t control what happened in the room before your visit. Right. Sometimes a guest presence lingers on way after they leave the room. The room can smell like their perfume or cologne if they sprayed it in the room.
Speaker 3 (22:06)
Maybe the room has had a pet or service animal and they’ve left dander behind. Even non smoking rooms can have the smell of second or third hand smoke or vape and then they’re the strong smells of harsh cleaners or disinfectants, which have really been their use, have really been up during the pandemic. So being careful of what’s been used to clean the hotel room is really important. So here is one of my favorite travel tips that I will share with you. Sometimes when I check into the hotel, I explain that I have severe chemical sensitivities that can trigger migraines, asthma, and allergy attacks. I ask at the front desk if it’s okay if I do a quick smell and sight check of the room to make sure it will be okay before I actually physically check in. I politely explain that this will avoid having to change rooms later if I find something that’s problematic for my health. Maybe the air conditioning doesn’t work or the heat doesn’t work, or I find a plug in someplace and then the hotel has to pay to clean the room after I’ve been in it or move me.
Speaker 3 (23:12)
So it’s much easier if they give me a quick three to five minutes to get in the room and give it a sight and smell check just to make sure it’s going to be okay for me. Unfortunately, not every hotel employee has willingly made this accommodation. Sometimes I have to be a little more forceful, but what I’ve learned over the last 30 years of managing asthma is that I would rather be considered an annoying customer than spend my vacation in the emergency room. We deserve to have safe accommodations and we need to be comfortable asking for those accommodations and to expect them. Another thing to consider in hotels is being careful using personal care products from the hotel. If you forget to bring a product from home, considering purchasing the product that you know works for you from the local store instead of using the hotel products. This can avoid brand reactions, especially if you have eczema or any other kind of allergies. So when you stay in the home of friends and family, you may have some of the same challenges we mentioned in the previous slide, but they just have to be discussed and managed a little bit differently.
Speaker 3 (24:23)
If you know your hosts have pets, let them know as much as you love their cats or their dog that they do cause your asthma allergy symptoms. Ask if the pet can stay out of your sleeping area. Sometimes I stick a microfiber cloth in my suitcase and wipe down any areas of the bedroom to help remove any dander or dust mites. I especially do this if I stay at a friend’s house who’s had a cat. That cat dander will stick to the baseboards and the walls and all of the furniture. So I do a real quick run through. And again, not the thinking that anyone’s home is not clean enough for me, but sometimes that dander is really sticky and hard to get out. During the pandemic, many people started using air purifiers, so ask if they have one that can maybe be used in the sleeping area. If you drive, maybe you can bring one in your car. I’ve been known to bring my own fans or air purifiers when I stay with people just to make sure I can make the room, the bedroom more user friendly. For me, the trick here is really to be a gracious guest while still getting your needs met.
Speaker 3 (25:30)
Remind your host that this is all in an effort to make sure you stay healthy during your visit and that you can enjoy time together and wear a mask if you need to. It’s okay for us still to wear masks. Food allergies can also be a sensitive subject sometimes. Others don’t remember we have allergies. They don’t understand the allergy. They don’t know how severe it might be. If you can, offer to help in the kitchen to ensure food is being prepared safely. And always have your auto injectors with you. So, a few other tips for hotels and rentals. Many hotels have adopted green policies, so ask when you’re making the reservation what this means for this particular hotel. It’s important to remember that green means it’s safe for the planet. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safer for humans. So you want to ask what their policies are. Sometimes housekeeping doesn’t come in on a daily basis anymore. You know, they might not bring clean towels. So one of the things you could do if you don’t want the housekeepers coming in with cleaning supplies and the smell of that, you can hang the Do Not Disturb sign on your door to avoid housekeeping from coming in.
Speaker 3 (26:49)
You can also leave a message at the front desk to not have your room cleaned. I recently stayed at a hotel in Southern California for a conference, and the hotel had quite the fragrance when I walked in. And I checked on the website, and they very proudly announced on their website that they had a signature scent that they were now pumping into the hotel. So they were pumping the scent into all of the common areas through their HVAC system, which included the lobby, all the conference rooms, the business center, as well as the dining areas. And then each individual hotel room had a reed diffuser that had the same scent. So they were trying to get this scent everywhere in the hotel. So I ended up having to switch hotels to get away from it. I asked if they had a room without the diffusers. They did not. They offered to remove the diffuser, but the smell was already there. So it was really challenging that I had to switch hotels. So, again, asking if, when you make the reservation, if there are signature scents, this could be a problem. If you’re staying at a casino, asked for those things, ask if there’s anything in the rooms like plugins or diffusers or flowers that might be a problem.
Speaker 3 (28:12)
Another trick I have is I bring my own towels to hotels. I have a severe dust mite allergy, and three years of immunotherapy helped, but didn’t actually completely cure it. So it’s still a problem. I’m always concerned about how long the so called clean tiles have been hanging around. So sometimes the tiles are rough and they smell like detergent, and it’s a problem for my eczema. I’m also one of those people who brings my own pillow whenever possible, so I always have my own pillowcase. And I also have a sleep sack. This sleep sack was bought a few years ago, and it’s like an indoor sleeping bag, and it’s made specifically for hotel stays. And so I just kind of put it on top of the hotel bed and I lay in that with my own pillow. And I don’t have to use the sheets from the hotel. I don’t have to worry about the detergents bothering me. I use my own pillow and I use my own towels. And so therefore, I don’t have any eczema issues or have to worry about the smells or scents from the hotel products. I know this sounds a little extra, but it does really help me control my asthma, my allergies, which in turn just reduces my stress and it allows me to enjoy my stay better.
Speaker 3 (29:38)
All right, let’s talk about how to manage some outdoor environmental triggers. So, cold and windy air can trigger asthma symptoms. The more severe your asthma is, the more likely cold air is to affect you. High altitude can make it hard for some people. One ski resort in Utah has a base elevation of 8100 ft, but the highest peak is 11,000 ft. I don’t think people realize how dramatic that elevation is and how difficult it may be for you to breathe when you’re not used to it. Colds and flus are common in winter and can lead to more inflammation in your airways. Those illnesses thicken the mucus and bronchial tubes and make it harder to breathe. This can result in symptoms or cause asthma flare ups. When the weather is cold, you may spend more time indoors, which means you’re more in contact with indoor triggers, so you might be exposed to more allergens. We’re in fall right now, so mold is a big issue. All those beautiful fall leaves are falling to the ground. They have mold on them along with the pine needles. When the wind blows, those mold spores get in the air and make it very easy for you to breathe in.
Speaker 3 (30:59)
So, some tricks to managing weather issues. Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf to warm the air before you breathe it in. One of the things we like to teach kids and adults to do is if you cup your hands together and put them over your mouth and breathe in the warmed air and try to sound like Darth Vader. Kids and adults love this, but that’s a good way to warm the air before it gets into your lungs. That cold air when it hits your lungs is what can cause issues. Use your short acting albuterol inhaler at the first sign of symptoms or warning signs to keep asthma from. Getting worse. Stay inside if the weather changes bother your asthma. Breathing warmer air can help open your airways, and for some, it might make their airways worse. So it all depends what triggers you also follow your asthma action plan when you have any symptoms. And remember that changes in weather can really not just outside weather, but when you come from in and out. So if you’re inside and you’re staying with your grandma and she has the heat set up to 85 degrees, and then you go outside and it’s 40 degrees, you might be okay.
Speaker 3 (32:08)
But when you come back into the 85 degrees, that might bother your asthma and make your chest tight. So just be aware of going in and out of different weather temperatures and how that might affect you. Air quality is always a concern when you travel. And no matter where you go, there’s going to be different challenges. So big cities have different issues in suburbia, which is different than rural areas, right? Big cities may have more pollution from buses. If you’re staying in big cities, you also might be taking public transportation to get around. So being aware of where the bus stop is or what it’s like to be on the subway when you have asthma, allergies is important. Suburbia might have fire pits, pollen, and mold, like we said, from the fallen leaves. Rural areas could have agricultural farms or processing plants that can pollute the air or cause a smell. So wearing a mask when you’re outdoors to reduce the amount of triggers you breathe in could be helpful. So humidity may bother some people, while others are only bothered if it’s hot and humid. So if you’re going to a humid environment, make sure you can get to an airconditioned place as soon as possible.
Speaker 3 (33:29)
And always carry your asthma inhaler with you. So new people, new environments, travel, and visitors can expose you to new triggers and risk the development of new allergies. There is no safe place for allergies. They can happen anywhere. Even if you visited a place before without any incidents, there could be a new trigger waiting for you that you’re not expecting this time. Holiday triggers. We’ve already talked about some of these. That scented candles, fires in the fireplace, fire pits, outdoors, cinnamon sticks, potpourri, they’re all a challenge. You know, let your hosts and other visitors know that these can trigger multiple symptoms for you. Sometimes when I go to holiday parties, I’ll bring a non scented or battery operated candle as a hostess gift and ask if we could use that instead of the scented one. We’ve been physically distancing for the last few years. Right? And I know a lot of people are really excited to give out getting those hugs from family and friends, but some people are not comfortable feeling that close again, right? Have you ever hugged anybody? And then they were in perfume or cologne, and then that perfume and cologne gets on your clothes and you’re smelling it for the rest of the day.
Speaker 3 (34:48)
So I’m always very careful about who I hug. I think it’s okay to say I’m not quite comfortable hugging yet. You know, the pandemic is not quite over, so let’s just fist bump or, you know, elbow bump and call it a day. If you hug someone who has been smoking as well, that second and third hand smoke can also get onto your clothes. So you want to be careful about that. Eats and treats, new foods, cross contact and hidden ingredients and holiday foods can all cause new food allergies or cause an allergic reaction. Remember, bring your own snacks or eat before you go. Work with the host before the event to make sure there are safe options for you. Helping children with food allergies really takes some ahead of the game planning. If you’re going to restaurants, call the restaurant about your child’s food allergy. Work with all the staff, the chef, the wait staff, etcetera. Talk about cross contact. Not just cross contamination, but cross contact. Carry a chef card, you know, remind children not to eat somebody else’s food or touch anybody else’s food. See young children with food allergies near family members who can keep an eye on them.
Speaker 3 (36:08)
Again, no food sharing. Using forks or napkins to touch food instead of fingers. Remember that food allergens must not touch the mucous membranes. So like your mouth, your eyes and your nose. So focus on what your child can eat rather than what they can’t, right? Pack, save treats or food. Remind family members ahead of time and ask what is being served. Explain the seriousness of the food allergy. So I really love decorating for the holidays, but it can cause some asthma allergy symptoms for sure. I always get asked about should I have a real tree or an artificial tree, which is more safe? Well, with a real tree, they can definitely have mold, spores, pollen and terpene on the tree. So one of the things you can do before you bring the tree inside is to wash it and let it dry outside very well before you bring it in. Now, this may not be possible in cold climates. It may not also be possible if you live in an apartment or condo complex. You might not have a place to do that, but that does really help. Artificial trees if you use one. Make sure you store it every year in plastic or covered bins or bags to avoid dust.
Speaker 3 (37:30)
Getting in dust and vacuum the decorations before putting them on display. Whether you just pull them down from your attic or you bought them from the store, just give them a good clean. If possible, have someone without asthma allergies do this for you. But if you can’t, you might want to wear a mask just to avoid the allergens from getting into your face. Don’t feel obligated to visit homes that might have asthma and allergens and irritants in them. Ask if you can FaceTime or zoom into the party for a bit instead.
Speaker 2 (38:05)
Speaker 3 (38:06)
We all did that during the height of COVID and although it’s not always ideal, it does give you an opportunity to participate without putting yourself in danger. And remember to get your flu, COVID and pneumonia vaccines. Talk to your doctor about when the best time to get your vaccine is. It is recommended to do that two weeks before you’ll be traveling because it takes two weeks for the COVID booster and the flu vaccine to kick in.
Speaker 1 (38:36)
Okay, now, I want everyone to remember that these are completely anonymous questions, but we are wondering if you’re traveling this holiday season. So if you could answer, we can’t tie these answers to your name at all. We won’t be stalking to see if you’re home or not, but if you could, please. Again, we’ve had coveted around for so long that a lot of people have changed how they do things. So we were just kind of curious how many people were thinking that they might travel. So we have yes, no, and I’m not sure yet because there is still a little bit of time before the holidays, although I usually know what I’m doing months and months and months in advance. So we’ve got about half our people who have voted. So if you could please continue to vote, we’ll get a picture of how many people are listening are going to be traveling. There’s certainly lots to deal with with allergies and asthma, whether you’re traveling or not. So we’re going to give you just another minute. And also it’s a great time to start to write your questions into the question box. If there’s something you’d like to ask about with allergies and asthma, we have our experts here for you today.
Speaker 1 (39:45)
OK, we’re going to take a look at our results. 38% of people are traveling, 52% are staying home, and 10% aren’t sure yet. So, yeah, we got lots of people that are going to be out and about and plenty of people that are just going to be home, which is a wonderful thing to do during the holidays. So as we move on, we’re going to talk a little bit about what you should pack if you are traveling.
Speaker 3 (40:12)
Thank you, Sally. Yeah. Let’s go through some of this quickly so we can get to the questions. For those of us with asthma, allergies or food allergies, we pretty much know how to pack, but it’s always good to have a reminder, right? So, emergency, always pack your medicines first. That should be the first thing you pack. Emergency and maintenance medicines need to be with you throughout the holidays. When traveling, pack them in your carryon luggage if you’re going to fly. I always keep mine under the plane seat in front of me so I don’t have to worry about getting my luggage down from the overhead bin during the flight, especially during when the seat belt sign is on. It can also help to pack extra meds in case your flight is delayed or something else prolongs your trip. Bring your allergy or asthma action plan. Be sure the people that are with you know what to do in the event of emergency. Have a list of your medications on your plan and not just a list of your medications. We just had this happen with a family member who was taking medications, but we didn’t know when he took his medications and so it was hard for us to help him when he needed help.
Speaker 3 (41:24)
So having a list of when they take their medications before food, after food, anything that might be different than what’s on the label of the medication because things have changed is really important to have listed. If you need to take medical help when you’re away from home, have a printed list of all your medications, not just your emergency medicines. You may be able to print these through your online patient portal or insurance app. I always like to ask my doctor before I travel what he might like me to do or prepare for. So he might suggest that I take an emergency dose of oral prednisone with me, right? Oral steroids, just in case I was to get sick. He might suggest that he wants me to take an extra albuterol just in case I lose one or need it, right? So I always like to talk to him about what I might need to make sure I’m extra prepared, you know, pack your child’s favorite blanket or pillow or something that will bring them comfort. You should also pack and bring something that will bring you comfort as well. I’m a big knitter, so I always make sure I have plenty of yarn and knitting projects to work on.
Speaker 3 (42:40)
It also helps relieve my stress. Again, talk to your doctor before you leave about what to do when your asthma symptoms get worse. And pack your favorite tissues and lotions so you don’t end up with a red nose for the holidays. If you do need help, medical help during the holidays, make sure you bring your insurance card. You might have a separate out of state insurance card, so check with your insurance company to make sure you have the right one with you. Look at medical facilities before you leave just in case. Locate an accessible urgent care and or the hospital before you need it. Know how to get there, right? Did you fly somewhere and you don’t have a rental car, so you’ll need to take an Uber to the urgent care. Are there one way streets in the city that you don’t know how to navigate? Are you going to have to take public transportation? Things to think about so you’re ready? Know where the nearest pharmacy is, make sure they take your insurance, or do you have to pay cash and follow up with the doctor when you get back. Adjust any meds and action plans when you return, if you felt any symptoms while you were traveling.
Speaker 1 (43:57)
Well, thank you so much for all this great information. If you have any questions, please feel free to put those in the question box. At this time, we do have a few to get to, but what great information. That was wonderful. So you mentioned when we’re talking about dining out, you mentioned a chef card, and we had someone who asked, what is a chef card?
Speaker 2 (44:21)
This is Andrea, and I can speak to that. I carry those with me. It’s a tiny card. It’s about the size of a business card. We do have some on our website for Allergy and Asthma Network. And you can simply fill in there what you’re allergic to. I always tell them this needs to follow my food. So sometimes the waitress will take my order and then hand it back and I’ll say, no, please have this follow my food. Because I wanted to go all the way through the kitchen. I want the chef to see it, I want everybody to see it, and then I want it to come back with my food. So everybody knows I have a seafood allergy. So it’s really important that my chicken isn’t cooked on the same side of the grill as the seafood allergy. As the seafood is. You can put them you can use them for any foods for tree nuts, peanuts, anything like that. They can be really handy. I print out a whole sheet, I put them in my business card holder, and I just leave them at the restaurant. I don’t need to take it back and use it again.
Speaker 1 (45:16)
I’ve eaten out with many people who have a chef card, and they’ll often say to the wait staff, I really need to have you take this seriously. Certainly I can eat at your restaurant. We can have a great experience, but I just need you to take this really seriously. And often you’ll actually have the chef come out and speak to you about the allergy just to be sure that they got everything right. Lorraine, do you have anything you’d like, being that you’re a chef yourself? Anything you’d like to share about that?
Speaker 3 (45:49)
Yeah, I think that’s a great point. An accommodating restaurant will be happy to do this for you. More than happy to do it. Chain restaurants you might have a little more difficulty with. And again, you can always call the restaurants beforehand and see if they can accommodate your request, and then just reinforce it when you get there with your chef card.
Speaker 1 (46:14)
Okay, thank you. Someone is asking now, should I pretreat with a short acting inhaler if I know I can’t avoid a trigger?
Speaker 3 (46:25)
This is Maureen. I can take that. That is usually a great strategy. Talk with your doctor first before you do that most doctors will recommend that you can use your short acting inhaler before you exercise or do physical activity to avoid having symptoms. And it’s the same thing if you know you’re going to go outside in the cold and that might trigger your asthma or if you’re going to be skiing or anything like that. But it’s always good to talk with your doctor first just to make sure that they are on board with that management plan.
Speaker 1 (47:01)
Great. Our next isn’t a question, it’s a comment. Someone says, thank you for this great information. It makes me feel like I’m not the only one who has special situations and I think that’s so important. I think so many times people can really feel like I’m so alone in doing this. I feel like I’m the only person that has to do this and it just isn’t so, is it? So our next question that we’re going to look at is when you’re dining out, sometimes menu will say, we can accommodate your food allergy and then every once in a while you get a menu that says that we can’t guarantee that our food isn’t cross contacted. I don’t know exactly what the wording is. So if you could just speak to what would you do if you go to a restaurant and said, basically we can’t guarantee that we can avoid your allergen for you?
Speaker 2 (48:07)
This is andrea and I have had that happen, so I’ll usually just leave. Some restaurants will be willing to let you bring in outside food if you are with a large group and you don’t want to sit out on the patio while they’re all having dinner without you. I’ve had to do this at restaurants and hotels where we were at conferences and we were served the food that I was allergic to. And I had to go downstairs to the little place where you check in and they have little snacks and things there. And I got something there that I knew that I could eat safely. So the last thing you want to have happen is think I might be okay, I’ll just go ahead and try it. For those of you that, like me, have had anaphylaxis, it’s not something you want to go through again. And so for me, if there’s any question in my mind, I will skip it. I won’t take any chances. It’s just too dangerous for me. Lauren, do you have any thoughts as a chef?
Speaker 3 (49:04)
No, I think you hit it. But I think one of the things to ask when you ask for this accommodation is if you cannot accommodate me, please let me know because I would rather you just be honest than putting me in danger.
Speaker 2 (49:20)
Speaker 3 (49:21)
So I would rather the restaurant say, sorry, we can’t accommodate you and so I can go someplace where I’m safe, versus thinking they’re going to accommodate you and they really can’t. Like you said, Andrea, that’s just a risky proposition.
Speaker 1 (49:36)
On our software. I can see that someone has raised their hand, but we can’t take a question verbally. So if you could please just write your question or comment right into our question box, we’d be very happy to address what you’re thinking about. Another question is, what do you do about hidden ingredients when you’re eating at a relative’s house? How can you be sure that there isn’t something that you can’t eat?
Speaker 2 (50:07)
We love family members. We love going to their home, but if they don’t have food allergies, they really don’t understand how serious it can be. And so it’s having that conversation again and again and again. And even when you get there, I would check the food and ask them what was in it, and if there was any question, we just wouldn’t eat it. I had a family member that would only put tree nuts on half of the cake or on half of the frosting. Well, the whole cake is contaminated. So if there’s any question on anything, another thing that we would do is I would bring a dish from home that I know that my child with the tree nuts could eat and was safe for them. So you can always do something like that, bring a dish so they don’t have to go hungry, so they have something to eat.
Speaker 1 (50:52)
Well, I think it’s important, too, for the cook to realize to ask the question. We have a member of our family who has a tree nut allergy, and one of the children wanted nutella, so I had to ask. I said, now, if I just opened this, is that a problem for you? He goes, no, it would only be a problem if I ate it. So I said oh, okay. But you can ask the person with the allergy and just say, can I even open this? Will this work for you? And find out from them what they’re comfortable with. I just think it’s so important just to keep the lines of communication open. Okay, next question. Is any progress on allowing laws to provide access to inhalers? Like, there are two auto injectors?
Speaker 2 (51:41)
Well, interesting that you should ask that. We also have information on our website at Allergen Asthma Network for the number of states that have stock albuterol that are in schools. So this may not be for a restaurant or other places, but there are numerous states that do have those. Check with your state. They vary state by state. We just passed this law in Utah a couple of years ago. So we do have the option to have stock albuterol in the schools. A student has to have an asthma action plan on file. They have to be a known student with asthma. They have disposable spacers that you can use with those. That’s another thing people get concerned about. It’s a flat little pouch. It’s cardboard, and it pops up. There’s a one way valve in there. You can connect the inhaler to it, and then that makes sure that the airflow only goes one way so it won’t contaminate it. So check with your area if that’s what your question was about stock albuterol schools, because there are a lot of stock albuterols. I haven’t heard of them in restaurants or any other places yet.
Speaker 1 (52:42)
Well, and we’re working also on a stock emergency medications toolkit that would apply to not only albuterol but epinephrine, because in a lot of states, you’re allowed to have it, but the school district hasn’t implemented it. So we’re trying to make it really a lot easier to implement it because it saves children’s lives. It’s been shown with epinephrine. The other thing, too, is that epinephrine, a lot of states have what they call entity laws, and that applies to restaurants and theme parks and some of these things that aren’t schools, but they do have allow epinephrine or they encourage epinephrine in those settings as well. Okay, someone saying, I do not have food allergies, but for the last two years, I’ve been on a restricted diet. How can I best handle food restrictions with servers and kitchen staff when they do not take the restrictions seriously? Because it’s not an allergy.
Speaker 2 (53:43)
Lorene, do you want to speak to that as a shop?
Speaker 3 (53:45)
Yeah, sure. Again, I think this really depends on the type of restaurant that you go to. Some of your chain restaurants might not be able to accommodate that because, you know, things come in already mixed and created, and so they just warm things or, you know, heat them up or grill them before they serve them. So they don’t really have the option to make adjustments. And most places that do have a chef will be accommodating to this. If you really explain, I think that we’ve seen this go a long way with people who don’t want to eat gluten and other things like that. And there’s certainly folks, I believe this is just the latest trend, and it’s such an annoying thing to try to accommodate, but the right chef and restaurant will be happy to do that for you. So I know for myself, I visit just very few restaurants that I know are willing to make that accommodation for me happily.
Speaker 1 (54:56)
Okay, now, we have one question. It’s not related to holiday tips, but it says that you mentioned you do home visits for asthma. Is there a program to get certified for that? Now, this person has just hit on one of Andrea’s big passions of asthma home visits. But Andrew, if you could give her the really quick answer on that, that would be great.
Speaker 2 (55:17)
Yes. And this varies by state if you have an asthma home visit program. So as a certified asthma educator, I did run my asthma home visit program for my county. It’s different state by state, city by city. Some have nurses that do the program, some have community health workers. And if you’d like to tune in on Friday at the Asthma Summit, we’ll actually be talking about this. Lorene and I will actually be talking a little bit more about this, about asthma home visit programs and the different people that can provide those visits.
Speaker 1 (55:46)
We do have the US asthma Summit coming up on Friday. It’s Friday, November 11. For those of you that are listening to the recording, if you go to the front page of our website at www.allergyasthmanetwork.org, look under events and you can certainly tune into the US. Asthma Summit. It’s going to be an amazing program. We have just time for just another one little thing here. Someone is commenting that schools in New York City have both epinephrine and albuterol for students. And someone’s asking, how do you start a program like this? Please feel free to pop an email to our information line. They’ll get that to Andrea. Just tell them you want to send this note to Andrea and she’ll get it and she’ll be in contact with you. So thank you so much Andrea Loren, today for all this wonderful information. It’s really going to make a difference for a lot of people. And I’d like to thank our listeners today for joining us as we looked at helping families cope with the holidays. On the next slide, you’ll see that we have our next webinar coming up on November 17 as Dr. Wes Sublett leads a discussion about conic cost concerns.
Speaker 1 (57:02)
Please join us on November 17 at 04:00 p.m.. So please stay online for two to three minutes to complete an evaluation survey. We do review your comments and incorporate them into future planning. So thank you again for joining us. This is Sally scheduler for the staff at Allergy and Asthma network. Join us as we work to make this the best holiday ever so we can all breathe better together.