Christmas is coming and this month many are decorating their home for the holidays. Stockings are hung, the house is adorned with Christmas lights, the tree is put up and then decorated. The Christmas tree is generally the focal point, as many feel that having a Christmas tree enhances the “festive feel.” While this is tradition, what many don’t know that the mold spores that thrive on Christmas trees and other greenery can actually trigger allergic reactions in some people and even make them ill. In fact, it’s not uncommon for doctors to become inundated this time of year with people who are experiencing sinus infections, respiratory illnesses, or just think they have a cold. However, it is generally just a case of Christmas Tree Syndrome.
If you often experience constant sneezing, watering eyes, and a runny nose during the holidays, it may not be a cold; your Christmas tree (real or artificial) might be the culprit. Don’t let your allergies get the best of you this holiday, help take control of your Christmas Tree Syndrome symptoms by checking out these tips.
• Tree sap can be highly irritating to mucous membranes and the skin due to the terpenes, so it is advisable to wear long sleeves and gloves when handling the tree to help protect yourself from the tree sap.
• If you must have a live tree, spray down the tree with water or with a mild bleach solution before you bring it inside. This can help remove some of the mold and pollen off the tree.
• To help prevent mold from growing on a live tree, stand the tree in a bucket of water and have it dry outside for a few days to help prevent mold from growing on the tree.
• The longer the tree is inside, the higher the mold level becomes, so it is not recommended to keep a live Christmas tree in the home for more than 4-7 days.
• While the tree is standing indoors, be sure to change the water often. You do not want fungus and bacteria to grow.
• If someone in the household has severe allergies, AVOID live trees all together.
• If you have allergies, and MUST have a real tree, there are certain species that are less likely to trigger allergic reactions. Fir, spruce, or cypress (in particular the Leyland cypress) are considered to be allergy- friendly trees.
• Artificial trees can still trigger symptoms, to help prevent this, be sure to properly store your tree when not in use. Wrap up the tree securely and keep it in a dry, cool space to prevent dust and dirt from accumulating.
• Wipe down or hose down an artificial Christmas tree before you put it up to remove any dirt and dust that may have accumulated on the tree.
• Some of the materials that are used to make an artificial tree can cause sinus infections, so do your research to find yourself a non-toxic, artificial Christmas tree.
• Avoid or be light on the spray snow. This aerosolized chemical can cause irritation, and can cause a reaction in the lungs, nose and eyes.
• Be sure to keep an air purifier near the Christmas tree to help prevent or alleviate symptoms.