Christmas Feature

Does Christmas bring you out in bumps?

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Not everyone is a fan of Christmas. For some the very thought of it
brings them out in a cold sweat - or even an allergic reaction.

Some have to be extra vigilant for chocolate covered nuts, others find their newly acquired fragrance brings them out in a rash and some even claim that being within a hair's breadth of a Christmas tree causes them to sneeze for the rest of the day.

In fact, some years ago pine oil, which for many is the very essence of all things festive, was classified by the EU Scientific Committee for Cosmetic and Non-Food Products as being a severe allergen. The reality is that the grumpy old men may have it on this one. As it turns out, even the smell of Christmas can be a hazard.

For those who thought the only downside to the Christmas tree was those darned needles that get stuck in your socks and wind up piercing the soles of your feet - think again!

Indeed, the smell of Christmas offers further pitfalls too. Fragrances - which for many prove to be the quintessential yuletide gift - can turn skin into a mountain of hives. Chemicals found in many top fragrances include, eugenol, geraniol, cinnamic and oak moss - substances that can cause itching, rashes and whole lot of discomfort.

And it's not just about what you put on your body. What we eat at Christmas can prove a minefield of allergens. Take, for example, that family favourite, the chocolate assortment box. Many of us will munch happily through a belly-full without giving it a second thought.

But to those suffering from nut allergies, a seemingly innocent Brazil cunningly disguised with a liberal coating of chocolate could equally prove to be a disaster. Indeed, many nut allergy sufferers report that they have to use a 'taste tester', which means that they only ever get to eat half-nibbled chocolates. Can you imagine that!

"Although most food allergy sufferers are highly aware of their condition and are extremely well informed about how to avoid potential hazards, the Christmas period definitely spells more danger,"​ said Maureen Simmons, chief executive of Allergy UK.

Simmons points out that, on top of the known hazards and the relaxed atmosphere during this period, there is also the added danger of food contamination.

"Many people attend parties where foods are laid out side-by-side,"​ said Simmons. "This means added danger for allergy sufferers as trigger foods can often become mixed in with seemingly safe foods."

Can you yourself imagine having to constantly refer to a 'taste tester' or rooting through the contents of every sandwich while being half-cut on too much sherry?

And what if you don't?

Simmons reports that at one Christmas party she attended she innocently helped lay out a few bowls of chicken flavoured crisps. Believe it or not, it transpired that those crisps actually contained real chicken flavouring. As a result one party reveler, who suffered from a severe allergy to all things poultry, ended up being admitted to accident and emergency.

It could just have easily been turkey.

So, spare a thought for the Christmas-averse this season. They have a point!

Merry Christmas.

By Simon Pitman

Related topics Ingredients Seasonal

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