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Common Allergens of Valentine’s Day — And How to Avoid Them By Dr. Cliff Han

Nothing says “I love you” like a bundle of a dozen red, long-stemmed roses, a fancy dinner, and a brand-new piece of jewelry. Or, could this actually spell disaster for your sweetheart who suffers from allergies, and would usually avoid this terrible combination at all costs?

Valentine’s Day, despite being the universal day of celebrating love, actually leaves many people more vulnerable to suffering allergic reactions compared to their general day-to-day. This is because celebrations, special occasions, and gifting can expose people to potential triggers that they would normally avoid. It also throws eating habits and routines out of check, which can be extremely stressful for those who have become disciplined in their self-management techniques to avoid flare-ups or reactions.

This Valentine’s Day, get clued up on the allergens you might not have considered, and avoid leaving your date — or yourself — in hives, fits of sneezes, or potentially an even more serious condition on this special day.

Food allergies

Valentine’s Day means an excuse to push the boat out and treat yourself to the food you might otherwise not normally eat. That fancy French bistro that offers dishes you’ve never even heard of? There’s finally an excuse to go. The cute little Italian that puts truffle in just about every dish? Let’s try it. A beachside seafood spot with the biggest oyster servings you’ve ever seen? Sounds perfect. But for your date who might have food allergies, and is especially sensitive to cross-contamination — particularly with foods like peanuts, eggs, shellfish, and more — this can be extremely risky.

If you know that your date suffers from allergies, drop the romantic surprise and involve them in the decision-making process. Ask if there is a particular place they have eaten before that caters to those with allergies and also makes great food. If you’re the one with the allergy, make sure to thoroughly do your research, and perhaps even call the restaurant before to avoid any surprises or make a special request.

Changes in diets for people with allergies can be stressful in general, so maybe choose to do something different from the norm, like an experience rather than a romantic dinner. That way, everyone can eat as normal and not have to worry about an unexpected reaction.

Flowers

It’s a common misconception that people experience a reaction to flowers because of a pollen allergy. In truth, pollen from flowers is heavier and doesn’t blow through the air like that from trees and grasses. While it is still possible to inhale pollen from flowers — causing people to cough, have trouble breathing, or break out in a rash — it is more likely the scent that is causing a reaction.

For those with nasal hyper-responsiveness, certain flowers can cause an allergic reaction such as a rash, itchy eyes, or wheezing. Flowers like lilies, hyacinths, and daisies in particular can trigger reactions in people who are sensitive to fragrance.

Thankfully, the classic red rose produces little pollen, so can still be the perfect option if you want to go traditional. However, it might be a good idea to skip the florals altogether if you don’t want to take any risks.

Jewelry

You might not be popping the big question just yet, but jewelry like earrings, bracelets, and necklaces tend to be popular choices for Valentine’s Day gifts. However, nickel can irritate the skin of those who are allergic to it. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, more than 18 percent of people in the US are allergic to nickel. It’s even found in some chrome-plated and gold products and can cause irritation to the skin, particularly if it gets moist.

Eczema — which typically affects people with a history of asthma or hay fever — is another common condition in which people can have sensitive reactions to surfaces and materials making contact with skin. Flare-ups of red, dry, itchy skin can be extremely uncomfortable and can take weeks to go away. So, perhaps consider saving the cash and investing in something that doesn’t have to be worn.

Some people experience what is called nonallergic vasomotor rhinitis when they come into contact with strong fragrances — particularly floral ones — like flowers, candles, or perfumes. That means all of your usual gifts, like bath and beauty products, perfumes, and home fragrances might have to be a no-go.

Another popular Valentine’s Day gift is chocolate, which can be dangerous for people who are allergic to things like nuts, gluten, or dairy. Again, it may be best to avoid food-based gifts altogether. Instead, gifts like vouchers are safer options since they allow your valentine to pick something they want, avoiding any potential triggers.

It’s also worth noting that your valentine might not even have a severe allergy. Some people just have very sensitive skin that is prone to irritation and rashes from products like skin creams. Once people who suffer from sensitive skin find a routine that works for them, swapping in a brand new product is unlikely — so it’s best not to splash the cash on a hunch.

Weekends away

A romantic getaway might sound like the perfect Valentine’s Day treat. But completely relocating to a new place — particularly somewhere advertised as “romantic” or “secluded” — could be a minefield of triggers. An older building or hotel might have dust mites, cockroaches, or animal hair. The countryside could be too rural and green for your date who suffers from seasonal allergies. And, if you or your Valentine tend to sleep in a very clean, allergen-friendly house with an air purifier, changing your environment can be sensory overload. Routine is key for those with distressing allergies, and breaking away from this can be outside of their comfort zones.

Allergen avoidance

Again, you might be the one who is trying to avoid allergies this Valentine’s Day. And while we might feel the pressure to make a grand gesture to do something special, it’s important to not do anything out of the ordinary that might trigger an allergy. Food allergies are likely the biggest concern for most of the US, as pollen has not started except in Florida and Texas. That means allergen avoidance is the best common sense suggestion when it comes to food. Label food, avoid using common food allergens when cooking for a party, tell others if you have food allergies, and know what to do when severe food allergies occur.

The root cause of allergies is a hypersensitive immune system. If you do suffer from reactions regularly — depending on severity — probiotics can help to calm the immune system. You can also eat fiber to calm the gut’s immune system, while products like AllerPops calm the immune system in the mouth and airway.

This Valentine’s Day, give the gift of understanding and consideration, and stay allergy free on the day of love.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Cliff Han, the founder of AllerPops, was a biologist for 28 years and a former medical doctor.  He participated in the Human Genome Project and authored more than 300 peer-reviewed publications. He is a scientist with the heart of an entrepreneur.

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