Holiday Survival Tips for MCAS

The truth is, the holidays are (sadly) a stressful time for many. And we all know that stress, crowds, new foods and odors can all lead to mast cell degranulation… which makes the patient with MCAS feel like one giant party pooper. As I was pondering some aspects of “MCAS holiday blues” the other day, an old familiar Christmas song came on, and I couldn’t help but change a few words…

An MCAS rendition of Andy William’s “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

by Amber Walker


Haha, I know that’s a bit ridiculous!

On the more practical side of things, there are, however, a few tips I came up with to help make this home stretch of the holidays a little more stable for patients who are wishing to attend social gatherings this month.

  • Set boundaries, prioritize, pace yourself, and say “no” to some things. Sometimes less is more! Prioritize locations that you’ve been to before and know you do well in (for example, if you tend to do better outdoors and worse in Aunt Cindy’s house, commit to the first option).
  • Pre-medicate and make sure that you have a mask and emergency meds on hand for if things start to get ugly.
  • Keep your gathering attendance to shorter time frames to avoid crashing after. Respect how you’re feeling and if you begin reacting to something in the environment, let yourself leave early.
  • If you have any special needs or accommodations, ask the venue or party host ahead of time for assistance so that everything goes smoothly. A lot of places will pre-reserve wheelchairs in advance, for example, if you’re worried about standing tolerance for a show or concert.
  • For potlucks, eat some “safe foods” in advance so that you don’t arrive famished and make poor food choices. Bring a few dishes to share that are also safe for you and make sure you set some aside for yourself right away if you suspect you won’t be able to eat much of anything else.
  • For dinner parties, consider calling the party host ahead of time to talk about the meal. You can always explain that since you have severe food allergies or sensitivities or a limited diet, you’ll be present but not able to join in the meal part (or will be bringing a separate dish for yourself). This is usually the easiest way to go and avoids having to ask the host what’s in each recipe. When your needs are clearly communicated in advance, it can save embarrassment, stress or hard feelings.
  • If you’re avoiding alcohol for histamine/health reasons, bring a pre-made “mocktail” with you so that feel more “included” and less awkward.
  • Pre-plan a short summary response for if people ask about your health. Chances are, at a holiday gathering they’re going to want the concise and condensed version. If people don’t ask how you’re doing, don’t take it personally. The holidays can be a crazy time for everyone. Instead, turn it around and ask how they are. Sometimes focusing on others can be a welcome distraction. (Just try not to compare situations…)
  • Be compassionate toward yourself. If you need to cancel, no big deal! Take the pressure off yourself as best as you can. Remember the reason for the season, and don’t be too hard on yourself if things don’t go as planned.
  • Stop and smell the roses (uh, mistletoe…) Maybe not literally, but make sure you have plenty of time to stop and focus on what you are grateful for. The holidays are the perfect time to practice cultivating a deep sense of joy, no matter what circumstances you are facing.

Wishing you a very blessed and joyous holiday season! Cheers!


This content is Copyright © Mast Cells United and is not intended to diagnose or treat anyone. Always consult your medical professional for any health guidance or advice.

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