Allergy

Can you be allergic to Valentine's Day?

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Many people are quite surprised each year that instead of being a special, amorous day, Valentine’s Day may be a source of dismay when it becomes a potpourri (literally) of surprising and unexpected allergy triggers for many allergy sufferers.  These triggers often include lovely fragrant flowers, perfumes, luscious chocolates, scented candles and more. Depending on one’s sensitivity, you or your partner may indeed be affected by one or many not uncommon allergy triggers. 

We already know that over one-third of Americans choose flowers as a gift for their loved one on Valentine’s Day.  Why not take the extra step, and select flowers and/or plants that are more allergy-friendly?

Follow this brief list of better floral choices and arrangements for Valentine’s Day:

- Daffodil

- Orchid

- Roses (florist type, hybrid tea variety)

- Tulip

- Bird of paradise

- Snapdragon

- Mums

- Carnations

- Dahlias

- Iris

- Asters

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Try to stay away from highly fragrant varieties, such as lilac, jasmine, lavender, honeysuckle, as well as many varieties of daises, gardenia and star jasmine. Your florist can help you make a great choice if you are buying flowers for an allergy sufferer.

Even selecting jewelry for your Valentine could be an issue, because metal jewelry (even coated ones) may contain nickel, which is one of the most common reasons for dermatitis, or a rash.  A simple test can help pinpoint if you have a sensitivity to nickel.  Even some leading brands of cell phones can contain nickel. Good news, there are many hypoallergenic and nickel-free alternatives. Remember, even gold (14 karats or less) may also contain nickel.  

If you or your loved one has a food allergy, it is essential to practice prudent avoidance measures (as well as being prepared to manage a food allergy reaction, if you have a known sensitivity) on this special day. That means avoiding suspect food allergens, which can be orally transmitted. In fact, allergens can linger in saliva following ingestion, irrespective of tooth brushing or other interventions.

The most common food allergies in adults that can interrupt your Valentine’s Day festivities include: peanut and other nuts (that are often hidden ingredients in sweets and desserts) as well as seafood and shellfish (i.e. oysters, popular for their alleged aphrodisiac qualities). Make sure to share your food sensitivities with those around you whether you are dining in a restaurant or at home.

For women who don’t regularly wear makeup and fragranced products, but do so on Valentine’s Day, it is important to understand that many beauty products may cause skin rashes, in those who are sensitive to ingredients in their skin care products.

In fact, one study concluded that over 80 percent of people surveyed admit that their allergies have a negative impact on their sex life, and that is nothing to sneeze at!

Remember, as always, a good defense can be a great offense. So, if you suspect you have skin, food or other allergies, see an allergist for proactive allergy survival tips. 

Dr. Clifford Bassett is an adult and pediatric allergy specialist, and diplomate of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. He is the medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of NY and author of "The New Allergy Solution: Super-Charge Resistance, Slash Medication, Stop Suffering." Bassett is a clinical assistant professor of medicine and on the teaching faculty of NYU School of Medicine and NYU Langone Medical Center, and faculty at Cornell University Medical College. Follow him on Twitter.