Is Your Christmas Tree Making You Sick?

Is Your Christmas Tree Making You Sick?

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The holidays are fast approaching, and between shopping and preparing for celebrations with family and friends, observers around the world are also in the midst of acquiring, erecting, and decorating Christmas trees in their homes. This is often a beloved part of the holiday season as the smell of fir fills the house and pine needles clutter the floors. But it also can present a variety of health problems linked to “Christmas tree syndrome.” 

What is Christmas tree syndrome?

Allergen experts are highlighting the prevalence of so-called Christmas tree syndrome this year. It’s not a mental condition stemming from loneliness during the holidays, but a physical ailment caused directly by the Tannenbaum in your living room. 

A 2011 study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology found that Christmas trees can contain upwards of 50 different types of mold, which can easily trigger an allergic reaction among people. Depending on how bad your allergies are, it can either manifest itself in simple sniffles or a real medical problem if you have severe allergies or asthma

How to prevent Christmas tree syndrome with real trees

Prevention of Christmas tree syndrome starts as soon as you pull up to the house with your tree. Before you take it inside, hose it down with water to wash off any allergens, as directed by the National Asthma Council of Australia

If you’re still experiencing allergy or asthma-related difficulties after you hose down the tree, it might be best to move it outside this year. 

Can fake trees give you Christmas tree syndrome?

Don’t think you’re out of the woods just because you have an artificial tree. 

It’s likely that your tree and decorations have been gathering dust in the closet or garage all year, so it’s probably not a good idea to take it directly into the living room. Instead, shake the tree and the ornaments outside before setting them up. For extra good measure, wipe down the decorations to get any allergens or bacteria off. Why would you want to display dirty decorations anyway?

How to get an allergen-free real tree

According to UCLA Health, pine allergies aren’t exactly common, though they do exist. Still, because of the other possible allergens that Christmas trees can harbor, it might be worth it to invest in a non-allergenic tree this year. 

The Leyland cypress tree is a common hypoallergenic alternative to common Christmas trees like the balsam fir and Frasier fir. The Leyland cypress is a good choice for anyone looking to stay healthy as it doesn’t produce any pollen, rendering it a “sterile hybrid tree.” It just might take some extra searching and calling different Christmas tree lots to find one. 

Plan ahead for Christmas tree syndrome next year

The best way to avoid the headache of preparing for possible Christmas tree syndrome is to prepare for next year as soon as this year’s celebrations are over. 

It’s best to store your decorations where they can’t gather any allergens in the coming year. For best result, use plastic coverings like bubble wrap or vacuum-sealed bags to keep allergens from sticking to the decorations and tree. 

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