Allergy Risks in a Heart-Shaped Box

This article has been reviewed by Thanai Pongdee, MD, FAAAAI

Flowers, perfume and candy are thoughtful gifts, but they can have serious consequences for people with allergies.

Food Allergies
If you have a food allergy, avoid eating food-related gifts that are homemade and be sure to read the labels of packaged foods. Desserts and chocolates are notorious for having hidden ingredients (especially peanuts and tree nuts) and home cooks may not understand the risks of cross-contamination. Be wary of bite-sized candies, which may be processed in different facilities or with different ingredients than full-size versions.

Help children celebrate special occasions safely in the school by contacting teachers to review classroom policies prior to parties. Send allergy-safe packaged treats for your child to enjoy, if necessary. Empower and prepare children to advocate for themselves — practice saying “no thank you” and have open discussions about challenges they encounter.

Allergens can also be transferred through saliva, so consider what your significant other ate prior to puckering up. Studies have shown that soon after eating peanut butter, salivary levels of peanut protein were high enough in some to cause a reaction.

Asthma, Hay Fever and Skin Allergies
Perfume, flowers and jewelry are other popular gifts; but these, too, can pose problems. While the pollen from brightly colored flowers like tulips and roses are heavy and typically do not cause allergy symptoms, their strong odors can trigger a person’s asthma symptoms or rhinitis. The same goes for perfumes, colognes and scented candles.

Jewelry containing nickel can cause itchy rashes in sensitive individuals. Even trace amounts can trigger a reaction.

AAAAI - American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology