'Tis the season for allergy flare-ups?

November 25, 2009 (CHICAGO) That's because holiday favorites such as wood burning fires, certain foods and seasonal greenery can trigger or irritate allergies and asthma.

Dr. Mary Kay Tobin, an allergist at Rush, says now is the time to make sure you have and take all of your medications, especially before heading out of town. Also, she says, patients need to let relatives know what triggers can make them ill.

And, if you are pulling out the holiday decorations, consider putting on a mask or airing things out before they're brought inside.

"It really can be a problem, because many people store their Christmas decorations in cardboard boxes in places that will -- like basements and attics -- that can be exposed to mold and dust mites," said Dr. Tobin. "So you bring them up and start opening them and they are just a haven for dust mites and that can really set people off.

"In addition, when you are bringing holiday greens in or the Christmas tree, there may be mold on the Christmas tree and there are a very small percentage of patients with allergies who are allergic to the pine itself."

Dr. Tobin says, with all of stress, indoor activates and people either ignoring or masking flu symptoms, it will be prime time for the spread of the H1N1 virus. She says asthmatics are particularly at risk, and she encourages patients to get the vaccine as soon as they can.

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