10 tips to help you get over Christmas allergy disasters

With only one shopping and partying day till Christmas, the festive season is well under way. I’ve found that even though I know what I should be doing, and have learnt from experience what helps me and what doesn’t, at times of pressure and stress I often forget or put off preparation and planning until it’s too late. Being busy, rushing around and Christmas parties are times when we can easily make mistakes, let our guard down and eat the wrong things. Whether you’re spending Christmas with family and friends at home or jetting off for warmer or snowier climbs, my top ten tips for surviving Christmas could be just what you need. Make sure you’re ready…

1. Give me drugs
Make sure you have stocked up on all the drugs you need well before Christmas. Check you have enough anti-histamines and the expiry date on your EpiPen and order a new one if you need to. If you use an inhaler make sure you have enough to see you through the festive season. Steroids can help too if you have a bad flare up so make sure you have some in the medicine cabinet for emergencies. I sometimes think it’s better to use topical steroid creams to treat eczema caused by an allergic reaction; you might be worried about how these can thin your skin, but the side effects of extensive scratching, lack of sleep, scar tissue, pain and low moods are not much fun either. Nasal sprays and eye drops can also help if you suffer particularly from excess mucus during an allergic attack.

2. Ice, ice baby
I’ve got an amazing Roshgo chilled face mask which lives in my freezer. It’s invaluable when I have an allergic reaction as it cools and soothes the burning feeling on my skin. You can use the plastic freezer bag packs, or failing that a bag of frozen peas or ice cubes packed into a plastic bag. Make sure you put the ice pack back into the freezer straight away so you can have another soothing chilly compress later on if you need to. A cool bath can also help if you are feeling really hot and bothered and your skin has erupted all over your body – it’s rather unpleasant, and chilly… but worth it as it can really calm down itchy skin.

3. Tackle the pain
If you had a head ache you wouldn’t think twice about popping a paracetamol or ibuprofen would you? Don’t be hard on yourself if you have an allergic reaction, take a pain killer and it will really help you get over the early agonising itching stages of an attack.

4. Feet up and chill
If you can put your feet up, this really helps; if you’re at work, have kids to look after etc. this might not be possible but if you can let your friends and family know you need some space for an hour or so it works wonders. Sneak up to your bedroom, or a quite place. Lay down with the ice pack, having taken a pain killer and anti-histamines and relax. Think happy thoughts and imagine your ravaged skin all healed and back to normal; play some soothing music, turn down the lights and relax.

5. Drink plenty to hydrate
Drink plenty of water, you need to replenish your body’s stock of rehydrating liquids and water is the best way of doing this. You could also have a relaxing camomile, nettle or redbush tea.

6. Moisturise
Keeping your skin moisturised is vital, don’t stint on this when you have an allergic reaction. Bathe and clean your hands and face, or wherever affected, just in case it’s something you’ve transferred on your hands. Apply your chosen moisturiser liberally and keep applying it often. You may feel a bit slimy and uncomfortable for a while but it really helps your skin to recover. Try a little bit of 99% Aloe Vera gel on your skin, then cover with something oily like Epaderm to seal in the moisture. Aloe Vera is a natural healer. Tea Tree oil is also really good to prevent bacteria infections.

7. A little help from nature
There are many things that can help an allergic reaction such as herbs and plants that can help boost your immune system, or alleviate the blocked up stuffiness of the excess mucus that can be created. Take some Echinacea, Grape Seed extract, Evening Primrose or Borage, Stinging nettle or milk thistle. An extra boost of zinc, calcium, magnesium and other vitamins will also help give the skin a helping hand to recover.

8. Avoid it happening again
Can you think back to what caused your reaction? If you aren’t sure write down all the possible offenders, what did you eat, where have you been, what have you used or done differently recently? For example you might have bought a new shower gel, washing powder or soap, or a different brand of sauce; check the ingredients and if you can, do a safe test on a small area of your skin to see if you react. Once you’ve pinned down the culprit do whatever you can to avoid it happening again to you or anyone else and take precautions. If you really aren’t sure, speak to you doctor about having some food allergy tests done at your local allergy clinic.

9. Snap it
I’ve started to photograph my allergic reactions, then save the photo by date and what I think caused it. It can be really useful to show previous reactions to your doctor and also help you document the advancement or progress of your allergic reactions; are your reactions getting better, worse, or changing? What’s causing them? Get someone to take a picture when the reaction is at its worst; you’ll be amazed when you look back afterwards and you never know when the photo will come in handy.

10. Know your skin
Most of all get to know your skin; keep a symptoms and mood diary where you record what you ate, how you felt and any changes, rashes or reactions. You will soon learn to recognise any tiny changes early and so start your coping regime earlier and minimise the symptoms. It will help you in the long run to identify things you are intolerant to and allergic to. If you suffer any infection or blistering this could be serious and you should go and see your doctor or allergy specialist right away.

I hope that none of you have an allergic reaction this Christmas, but we all make mistakes, and it’s especially hard during holidays like Christmas when we relax, are invited to parties, friends’ houses to generally eat drink and be merry. If the worst does happen, make sure you are prepared to act fast, minimise the symptoms and return to the festivities as fast as you can. The local pharmacy, doctors’ surgeries and your allergy specialist will probably have a Christmas holiday too so don’t get caught short with no way of getting help.

Happy Christmas from Whatallergy.com

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. http://www.whatallergy.com was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.

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