Do You Suffer From Christmas Tree Syndrome?

Say it isn’t so! As much as we might enjoy being around a nicely decorated Christmas tree, something may be sapping the joy from many people. Think swollen eyes, itchy bumps, stuffy nose… sound familiar? If this is you or someone you love, they may be suffering from Christmas Tree Syndrome.

As you may have guessed, the “syndrome” is really an allergy; and it’s much more common than you might expect. In more medical terms it’s called contact dermatitis. People with this rash are often allergic to the Christmas tree’s sap. As the name implies, when they come into contact with the sap, they may get a rash. Some doctors also attribute this to mold.

Americans purchase between 25-30 million live trees each year to be used as Christmas trees. These variations of conifers are harvested weeks if not months in advance. To keep them as fresh and bushy as possible, the trees are bundled, kept moist and then refrigerated for transport. That creates a setup for mold to grow and thrive.

This is something you won’t see or really notice outwardly in any way. But it contributes to the number of people who experience an allergic outbreak once the tree is set up in the house.

The website IQAir took a deep dive on the topic, citing several studies that looked into Christmas Tree Syndrome. One of them measured the number of mold spores. During the first three days inside, the air count held steady at about 800 spores per cubic meter. But on day four, things started going haywire. The spore counts eventually hit 5,000 mold spores in the air per cubic meter — well more than what is considered normal, or healthy. That can cause a lot of aggravation as you can imagine.

Another research group took samples from a variety of types of Christmas trees and found an astonishing 53 different types of mold, including penicillium and cladosporium which are both known to trigger allergies.

So we’ve covered sap and mold. Add to that tree pollen and you have the primary offenders when it comes to getting a negative reaction.

So, hate to be the grinch, but what do you do with this kind of information? Especially if you would really like to have a live Christmas tree?

Provided the allergic reaction is mild, you can take steps to minimize the impact. Mostly if it is related to mold.

First, wipe and clean the tree trunk with a bleach solution before bringing it into your home. If you live in a climate or area which is conducive to this, consider buying or cutting down the tree yourself. This lessens the chance that it is kept wet during shipping, thereby limiting the opportunity for mold to take hold.

Next, it’s important to change the water frequently so you don’t add to the growth of mold and bacteria. An air purifier can also help by cleansing the air, a good quality system will have filters that remove mold.

Lastly, limit the duration in which you have the Christmas tree around. Instead of installing and trimming the tree immediately after Thanksgiving, trim the amount of time to maybe a week or two before Christmas. Then get rid of it sooner too. New Year’s Day is much too long if you have someone who is allergic.

If you follow these steps, you may be able to deck the halls with boughs of holly — without the folly.

What do you think?


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