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'Tis the Season to Give Allergen-Free Gifts

SUNDAY, Dec. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Buying gifts for people with allergies or asthma requires special consideration, says the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

For starters, avoid gifts of food and sweets.

"Food allergens lurk in all kinds of holiday treats, from fruitcake which may contain nuts, to cookies made with wheat," Dr. Myron Zitt, past-president of the ACAAI, said in a college news release.

Instead, give food lovers a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant or give them non-food items such as coffee mugs, serving platters or a new kitchen gadget.

Don't shop at the pet store, either. Dander, saliva and urine from cats and dogs can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms. For children, an alternative to a real animal would be a hypoallergenic stuffed toy animal that's washable. These types of toys should be washed weekly in hot water to rid them of allergy-causing dust mites.

If you're considering jewelry as a present, don't buy costume jewelry because it often contains nickel, a common allergen. While 18 karat gold is safe, it may be too costly. In that case, consider something like a watch with a plastic band.

When it comes to clothing, avoid angora (rabbit fur) or wool, including cashmere. The best bets for clothing are items made of 100 percent cotton, says the ACAAI.

Pass on the poinsettas: While festive, the plant can cause a reaction in people allergic to latex (it's part of the rubber tree family).

Finally, avoid perfumes and scented candles, soaps or lotions. Instead, look for allergen-free products.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians outlines how you can control your allergies.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, news release, Dec. 2, 2010

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