Allergies are not typically something that come to the front of the mind during the Christmas holiday season. Yet studies have shown that the cold weather can exacerbate symptoms in those suffering from asthma and hay fever (also known as allergic rhinitis) – and exacerbating this further could be that lush Christmas tree sitting in your living room, hanging with all its glittering ornaments.
Over 50 million people in the US suffer from some type of allergy every year. As the festive season begins, the cold brings people indoors where they are more frequently exposed to certain allergens such as dust and animal dander from pets. Add into the mix a Christmas tree – whether straight out of the ground or out of the basement – and there are suddenly a lot more potentially irritating particles floating in the air.
One study investigating allergies to live Christmas trees found that 7% of individuals with a history of allergies had specific reactions to conifers. Examples of conifers are pine trees, firs, and spruce trees – all popular for putting presents underneath.
A conifer allergy may result in symptoms such as:
- Itchy eyes and nose
- Skin rashes
Though most people who are going to react to the tree do so within 24 hours, 15% of individuals find that their allergy symptoms can be delayed by several days from the tree first being introduced into the house.
A Brief Explanation About Allergy
Allergy is defined as an immune reaction by the body to a substance known as an allergen, whether this be dust, animal dander, pollen, molds, or foods. When an allergic individual encounters an allergen, his or her immune system triggers a chain of events that result in the release of various cells and chemicals within the body. The activity of these chemicals is what causes the typical symptoms of allergy – sneezing, itching, nose congestion, coughing, swelling, and tearing.
What Causes a Christmas Tree Allergy?
Unfortunately, a Christmas tree allergy can be brought on by either a live or artificial tree, though each involves different types of allergens.
Allergies associated with real trees are typically a result of mold spores and pollens brought into the house on the tree, or may even be the scent of the tree itself. Although the conifer’s own pollen is no longer active by winter, pollen from other microscopic plant life can attach itself to the tree and then spread throughout the house. A study conducted in the US found that Christmas trees can carry up to 53 types of mold and have the potential to increase the mold spore count inside a residence up to 6x times for the time that the tree remains inside.
Artificial Christmas trees can also trigger allergies due to the dust and dust mites collected over the time the tree spent in storage. Ornaments and other festive decorations can also release clouds of dust when unpacked and set up around the house. For sensitive individuals, the chemicals used in the manufacturing of artificial trees may be enough to cause an allergic reaction, particularly sinus irritation.
What Can Be Done About Christmas Tree Allergies?
Fear not, the festive season can still be festive even if you find that your Christmas tree sets off the sneezes. Experts have a few tips on how to keep the season jolly:
- Remove as much debris, mold and loose pollen from a live tree before bringing it indoors by shaking it, using an air blower, or spraying the tree with a hose and allowing it to dry
- Spray a live tree with a mixture of bleach diluted in water; this won’t harm the tree itself. A bleach and water spray can also help to remove certain odors released by a live tree, which some people may find irritating
- Use gloves and a face mask to avoid touching or inhaling any allergens when handling the tree, whether a live or artificial one
- Pack away Christmas ornaments (and your artificial Christmas tree) in a well-sealed bag or box to avoid dust settling
- Take your live Christmas tree outside of your home as soon as the season is over; doing so will help to reduce the mold spore count inside your home
Real or artificial Christmas trees – which are worse for allergies? https://www.inquirer.com/health/christmas-tree-real-artificial-allergies-asthma-20191127.html
Asthma and allergic rhinitis increase respiratory symptoms in cold weather among young adults. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0954611113004344
Allergy Facts and Figures.https://www.aafa.org/allergy-facts/
Do you have winter allergies? https://www.webmd.com/allergies/winter-allergies#1
Christmas Tree Allergy: Mould and Pollen Studies. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1930673/
Allergy definition. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions-dictionary/allergy
Am I allergic to Christmas trees? https://www.allergypartners.com/allergic-christmas-trees/
Easy and quick fixes for any Christmas tree allergy. https://www.balsamhill.com/how-to-fix-christmas-tree-allergies