How to Avoid Christmas Tree Syndrome This Holiday Season

treeThanks to cooler temperatures and low pollen counts, the holiday season is often considered the most wonderful time of the year for allergy sufferers. However, ‘tis the season to be wary of Christmas Tree Syndrome, which is described as an allergic reaction to both live and fake trees that may be home to pollen, sap, dust, mold, and other pesky allergens.

While most households with live and fake trees are concerned with preventing the tree catching on fire or making sure the star balances just right at the top, an even greater concern is the presence of allergens — which can trigger a series of symptoms, some mild and some severe.

Recently, the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reported that even the smell of live Christmas trees can trigger an allergic reaction, in addition to the pine resin and molds. According to the report, within only two weeks of bringing a live tree into a home, mold counts skyrocket.

In a study conducted by the State University of New York, 70% of the mold varieties found in live Christmas trees can cause severe allergic reactions such as asthma attacks, general malaise and fatigue, sinus congestion, and other symptoms that are often mistaken for the cold or flu. Prior to this 2011 study, it was often thought that Christmas tree allergies were brought on as a result of only pollen and pesticides.

“If you can get the room to 90+ degrees for 24 hours or more, that will bring down the mold and spore count and prevent serious allergens. We do that in some cases to the spices we make, especially when we have to meet certain requirements for manufacturers who use our products in their ingredients,” explains Gary Woolley, General Manager at Pollen Ranch. “The best thing to do would be to put the tree in the driest area of the house as possible to get rid of the mold.”

Microscopic mold spores that trigger allergy symptoms are naturally found on live trees. While some allergic reactions are immediate, some may take up to two weeks to fully develop after setting up a live tree. Terpene and other irritants are found in tree sap, and can cause inflammation in the skin and mucous membranes.

The American Christmas Tree Association and Prevention recommends wearing gloves and long sleeves while setting up a Christmas tree in order to avoid contact with sap. Also, it is recommended that the tree be sprayed down with water in order to remove excess pollen and mold. Similarly, artificial trees should be wiped down regularly and stored in a cool, dry place with limited exposure to dust.

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