Symptoms of Christmas Tree Syndrome: Get the Facts

Dealing With Christmas Tree Syndrome


Symptoms of Christmas Tree Syndrome

The holidays are a big deal to many families across America, but for those with allergies, the holidays present a unique set of issues to handle. One of the worst offenders for allergy sufferers is the Christmas tree. If you notice that dealing with the tree exacerbates your allergy issues year after year, you might be dealing with Christmas tree syndrome. Unfortunately, both natural and faux trees can cause problems for those who are sensitive. In this article, we will cover the facts and the symptoms of Christmas tree syndrome and offer some tips to help you avoid issues when setting up your tree.

What are the Most Common Symptoms of Christmas Tree Syndrome?

There are two basic types of reactions when it comes to Christmas tree syndrome; airborne reactions and skin reactions, also known as Christmas tree dermatitis, when a rash is present. While these symptoms seem normal, the key is that symptoms appear or get worse when there is contact with a Christmas tree.

The most common symptoms include:

• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Asthma-like symptoms
• Skin rashes
• Itchy eyes

What are the Causes?

Both natural and faux trees have issues in common and ones that are unique to each.

Dust and Mold

The biggest culprits of Christmas tree syndrome are mold and dust. With a massive number of small branches and needles, the total surface area of an average Christmas tree is enormous. This can allow dust and mold to collect in vast amounts, leading to severe reactions. The Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology published a study that showed that more than 50 different types of mold had been found on a single tree.

Faux Trees

Besides the dust and mold issues with faux trees, brand-new trees can cause reactions for those who have chemical sensitivities. Fake trees are no longer made by hand; on the contrary, they are mass-produced by machines in an industrial setting. Like the “new car smell,” new trees can harbor trace chemicals between the branches that can cause outbreaks and other reactions.

Natural Trees

The issue with natural trees is evident to anyone with allergies to pollen. However, tree pollen is not the only issue with real trees. The sap of Christmas trees, called colophony, is one of the tree’s self-defense mechanisms and has been known to cause reactions similar to poison ivy or oak.

What Can You Do to Lessen or Eliminate Christmas Tree Syndrome?

You can lessen or even prevent Christmas tree syndrome with a few simple steps:

Cover Exposed Skin

Wearing long sleeves and gloves will help reduce exposure to allergens, and changing clothes after will help prevent skin rashes.

Give the Tree a Shower

Hosing your tree down will help remove dust, mold, pollen, and other allergens.

Use an Air Purifier

Placing a reliable air purifier near the tree can help to remove anything that becomes airborne when setting up or decorating the tree.

Switching Types

If you have been having issues with the same type of tree year after year, trying the other type might alleviate problems; be careful not to make it worse.

Practice Good Storage Habits

Proper storage is the best way to reduce dust and mold on artificial trees. Choosing a tree that breaks down into smaller components will make it easier to store and clean. A good tree bag will protect your tree while it spends its year in the attic.

How to Get Immediate Relief?

Fortunately, Christmas tree syndrome is treated like any other outbreak or allergic reaction. Remedies range from prescription drugs and inhalers to over-the-counter and homeopathic treatments. The most common treatments include:

• Hydrocortisone cream
• Antihistamines
• Nasal washes
• Eye drops

Make sure to see your doctor if your reactions are severe or last longer than seven days. Christmas tree syndrome is not considered to be life-threatening and can be easily treated.

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