Be an Asthma Friendly Secret Santa

Earlier today, Dia was telling me about her office Secret Santa. I don’t currently have a physical office to go to (after all, my current coworkers are two provinces away!), but it reminded me of many Christmas-seasons past, primarily when I worked at a daycare. We received lots of gifts, both among coworkers and from parents of the children we cared for.

I was, of course, thankful for all of them because, yes, it is the thought that counts. However, many gift ideas that weren’t asthma-friendly for me, like scented lotions, soaps, and bath sets, got donated (and hopefully not gifted to someone else with asthma or chemical sensitivities!).

Healthy gift giving is hard!

I love buying gifts for people, but it’s always hard to pick that perfect thing. I can only imagine it’s even harder in an office situation where you may or may not know the person whose name you received in a Secret Santa draw super well!

Being an asthma-friendly Secret Santa

Here are some things to be aware of when trying to be an asthma (and allergy!) friendly Secret Santa:

  • Scented products

    Scented products can cause problems. If you don’t know your recipient well, I’d avoid giving these products in general! Whether it’s bath sets, skin lotion, candles, or your homemade soap, nearly everyone has specific preferences when it comes to the products they use on their body!

  • Candles

    Candles are also a popular gift idea but can be difficult for someone with asthma or chemical sensitivities to receive because of scents. They can also be unsafe—in homes with pets and children, they may go unused.

Alternative ideas: If you still want to go with bath products, look for completely fragrance-free bath bombs, soaps or bubble bath—and yes, that means free of essential oils, too. LED “candles" or color-changing battery-operated “candles” also can help set a festive mood, but without the scents and hazards of wax candles.

  • Food products

    I love to get baked goods, candy, and chocolate, but I know I’d feel differently if I had food allergies or Celiac disease! If you now your recipient has food allergies, steer clear of giving them homemade foods. Even if they are free of their allergens, they still may have valid concerns about cross-contamination and may not feel safe eating the treat you prepared for them.

    If you know your recipients' food allergies, it can really show you care by ensuring the commercially-available treat you find them is safe for them to eat. If you’re not sure if they have food allergies, skip food products altogether.


Alternative idea: Depending how close you are, if baking is your forte, ask if you can come bake something for them at their house—or even make the whole meal! Bring packaged ingredients so they can check labels to ensure they are safe, then enjoy each other’s company while you create deliciousness!


  • Plants

    Plants can be dicey. I once got a plant from a kid I cared for (came with a card that said “thank you for helping me grow” - aww!). I think it was a succulent of some sort, but I know nothing about plants and it was years ago. I just Googled, though, and even succulents—including cacti—can be problematic for people, specifically those with latex allergies.


Alternative idea: Once for Mothers’ Day, I bought my mom a plant from Ikea. However, she didn’t realize until the next day when she went to water it… that it was fake. Honestly, not being much of a plant person, she was happier with this discovery. It still looks as nice as the day I got it, years later!

Other healthy gift ideas for people with asthma and allergies

Some smaller healthy gifts I received over the years have been both meaningful and not at all questionable when it comes to my asthma. One year, I got a personalized Christmas tree ornament from a daycare family. The gifter had asked the director for all of our favorite colors. I still have the shiny purple ball with "Miss Kerri" written on it in glitter!

This year, I received from a friend a photo-frame clock. He’d personalized it with pictures of us in the summer with #PaulieThePenguin! The same friend previously made me my favorite Christmas decoration—a brick-sized “upcycled" window tile box thing (you get the idea!) filled with Christmas lights attached to a battery pack with a leaping reindeer on the front! Super cool.

In case you're not crafty...

We’re not all crafty, though! From the same parent who got us the plants, the next summer she made us relaxing summer packs before our month off began. The packs included a gift certificate to see a movie, a package of popcorn, a pack of peanut butter cups (…we were all a little bug-eyed as her son has a nut allergy—clearly she trusted us!), and a magazine, nestled inside a popcorn container!

Other favorites? Festive notepads or notebooks, socks (people, y’all know nothing feels better than a new pair of socks! One of my favorite pairs of socks remains a pair a friend/coworker got me when she got everyone else Bath & Body Works!) and coffee gift cards!

What are your favorite asthma-friendly gifts you’ve received for the holidays?

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