Allergies and Thanksgiving

It is that time of the year again when families and friends gather together for the highly anticipated Thanksgiving Day holiday.  Most people do not think about how Thanksgiving may affect one’s allergies, however, the holiday is full of potential triggers for many individuals prone to various allergies.

The most obvious allergies in relationship to Thanksgiving would be food allergies.  This relationship stems from the fact that when the average person thinks of Thanksgiving, they immediately associate the holiday with food and gluttony.  There are individuals who are allergic to turkey, the staple food of Thanksgiving, but turkey allergy is not very common.  More commonly, many individuals will experience sleepiness after eating turkey meat.  This phenomenon is explained due to the fact that turkey contains higher levels of the amino acid “L-tryptophan.”  L-tryptophan will enter the bloodstream from the digestive tract and travel to the brain where it gets converted to the chemical “serotonin.”  It is the serotonin that is responsible for causing this sleepiness.  In addition to turkey which helps fill the plates on a Thanksgiving Day dinner, there are lots of other foods that accompany this holiday favorite.  Common food allergens such as wheat, soy, egg, milk, nuts, and peanuts are often found around the table.  Gravy used for turkey and mashed potatoes frequently contains soy, wheat, and/or dairy.  Nuts are commonly found on string beans and in some types of stuffing.  Nuts and peanuts are common in many desserts such as pecan pie and brownies.  Eggs and milk (dairy) are also used in many baked goods.  Although pumpkin allergies are not common, pumpkin pie may contain an array of ingredients that may trigger a food allergy in susceptible individuals.  It is also important to note that among various cultures, many families incorporate many ethnic foods in their celebrations.  These foods may not be traditional but they increase the likelihood of other allergenic foods such as fish, shellfish, etc. to be the causative agent of an impending food allergy.  If someone has a serious food allergy, it is advisable for that person to bring their own food.

In addition to food allergies, one always is exposed to the typical environmental allergens such as dust mites, pets, molds, and to a lesser extent pollens.  By Thanksgiving, the pollen count in most places in the U.S. is low or non-existent, except in the southern states.  It is the molds, dust mites, and pets that tend to bother individuals during the end of November in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area.  These allergens can cause the typical symptoms of hay fever (I.e., allergic rhinitis and/or allergic conjunctivitis) and/or asthma which may include runny nose, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, sneezing, itchy nose, itchy throat, sinus headaches, itchy eyes, watery eyes, redness of the eyes, wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.  One must keep in mind that many of these symptoms may mimic the symptoms of the common cold or flu (i.e., influenza) which tend to become more prevalent during this time of the year.

Other irritants that can cause allergic-like symptoms at a Thanksgiving Day event may include perfumes, colognes, cigarette smoke, smoke from a fireplace or wood-burning oven, and cleaning fluids.  Unfamiliar soaps may cause contact dermatitis to individuals with eczema (i.e., atopic dermatitis) and sensitive skin.

Thanksgiving is a festive time and loved by almost everyone.  It is a time to congregate with family and friends and an excuse to eat too much!  Given the positives about the Thanksgiving holiday, it is crucial to remember that there can be potentially serious complications from this seemly innocuous occasion.  With this in mind, have a very happy Thanksgiving!

The board certified allergists at Black & Kletz Allergy have been diagnosing and treating allergies, asthma, sinus conditions, and immunological disorders for more than 50 years.  Black & Kletz Allergy has 3 convenient locations in the Washington, DC metro area with offices in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA.  We offer on-site parking at each location and the Washington, DC and McLean offices are Metro accessible.  There is a free shuttle that runs between our McLean, VA office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line.  Please call us today to make an appointment at the office of your choice.  Alternatively, you can click Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours by the next business day.  The allergy specialists at Black & Kletz Allergy pride themselves in delivering the highest quality allergy care in the Washington, DC metropolitan area in conjunction with providing excellent customer service in a friendly and affable environment.