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Thanksgiving is about family, food, and travel. When you have allergies, this can be a challenging time, whether it is a concern about food allergies or exposure to allergens in a relative's house. Here are 5 tips for making the holiday go a little more smoothly:
1. Prepare for exposure to dust or pets: If you know you are dust mite allergic, but you are going to be staying in someone's guest room with older carpeting or sleeping on a mattress that may not be dust mite proofed like yours is at home, be proactive by taking a daily antihistamine (such as Allegra or Zyrtec) and allergist-prescribed nasal sprays or eyedrops for several days prior to the visit. If you tend to have asthma symptoms with dust or pet exposure, make sure you are taking any preventative asthma medications your doctor has prescribed, and bring along your rescue inhaler.
2. Avoid using fancy guest soaps: If you have sensitive skin or contact allergies to soaps or lotions, bring your own hypoallergenic soap (Dove or Lever 2000 are usually safe). Avoid scented or herbal soaps, shampoos, or lotions that may be provided for guests.
3. Avoid food allergens in preparation of the turkey or stuffing: If you are allergic to wheat, soy, or milk, try to keep your turkey dinner simple -- a natural turkey is your best bet, since by law it must contain nothing but turkey and water. Stuffing may contain a multitude of spices and allergenic ingredients, so if you are not sure about the content and know you are allergic to wheat, stay away from this part of the meal.
4. Make your "sides" allergen-free too: For allergen-free mashed potatoes, swap the milk and butter for chicken broth and margarine. Use corn starch to thicken the gravy instead of wheat flour. And forget about topping the green bean casserole with slivered almonds if you are allergic to tree nuts.
5. Bring your own sweet treats: Thanksgiving pies and desserts often contain common allergens such as milk, egg, and wheat. To be on the safe side, if you have serious food allergies, bring your own dessert to share with the group.
With a little thought toward prevention, you can avoid many of your allergy triggers, and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!