Flowers, food, fragrances and more – Valentine’s Day is a special time to show your sweetheart you care with gifts and gestures both grand and small. The goal is to make your Valentine blush and take their breath away. But you want it to be from the love they feel, not an allergic reaction.
“Some traditional Valentine’s gifts can cause an allergic response, which can halt any romantic moment fast,” said allergist Dr. Kathleen May, M.D., president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Hives, coughing, sneezing and difficulty breathing are a few reactions that can occur if you don’t think ahead about your loved one’s needs.”
May and the team of experts at ACAAI share some common romantic gifts that can cause an allergic response, along with safer alternatives to consider:
Foods: Thinking of gifting a sweet for your sweetie? That heart-shaped box of chocolates could contain traces of ingredients that may make your loved one ill. If you’re buying a treat, make sure to read all packaging carefully. Likewise, if you have a romantic meal at a restaurant in mind, ensure there are safe options and the kitchen can prepare dishes appropriately. Keep in mind, the most common food allergens are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, soy and sesame.
Alternatives: Call ahead to the restaurant to make sure food allergies can be accommodated by the kitchen. When in doubt, cook and bake at home, and make sure your beloved approves the menu.
Perfumes: Whether it’s given as a gift or worn on a special night to impress another, certain scents can cause a reaction. While not technically an allergy, strong fragrances can be irritants and cause headaches, sneezing, watery eyes and runny noses. In addition to their irritant effects on the upper airway, be aware that fragrances in perfumes and other scented products are a common trigger for allergic contact dermatitis. If your loved one doesn’t wear perfume, it’s probably for a reason, and perhaps it’s a gift you should avoid this year. You should also be thoughtful and limit what you wear yourself.
Alternative: Look for fragrance-free soaps and lotions and place them in a self-care basket that includes other items like loofahs, slippers, a robe and an LED candle.
Flowers: A beautiful bouquet of flowers is a quintessential gesture of love, but it might send the wrong message if it causes your sweetheart to sneeze or break out in a rash. Some people experience nasal symptoms with scented flowers like lilies. There are flowers that are especially high-risk for people with skin allergies, so try to avoid daisies, goldenrod, sunflowers and chamomile.
Alternative: Skip flowers if you know allergies are an issue and go for an experience. Treat your sweetie to a show they’ve been wanting to see or concert they’d love to attend.
Jewelry: Rings, necklaces, earrings and more – jewelry can be an impressive gift for a loved one. However, if the metal irritates their skin, this gift will go unused. Make sure your sweetheart isn’t allergic to the metals contained in some jewelry, particularly nickel. Keep in mind, chrome-plated objects and 14K and 18K gold contain nickel that may irritate the skin if the gold gets moist.
Alternatives: Consider beaded jewelry. For example, pearls and glass beads are stunning and unlikely to trigger allergies. And if you’re unsure of which materials are safe, just ask. This way you’ll give a gift that will be cherished for years to come.
If your favorite Valentine is having trouble finding relief for their allergy or asthma symptoms, a board-certified allergist can help. For more information about allergies – including the diagnosis and treatment of them – and to locate an allergist in your area, visit ACAAI.org.