Allergic to the Holidays?

Allergic to the Holidays?

The holiday season is meant to be joyous, but for many, the pressures of the season can be daunting. And to further complicate matters, some people have respiratory sensitivities that can be exacerbated by contact with Christmas trees.

A study published in 2011 found that real Christmas trees can carry molds that trigger allergic reactions in some people.

Incessant sneezing is no way to spend the holidays, but real Christmas trees are known to often carry microscopic mold spores that can exacerbate allergy symptoms, including sneezing, watery eyes and an itchy nose. A 2011 study performed by staff at the SUNY Upstate Medical University and published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found that a small sample of Christmas trees carried about 50 types of mold, two-thirds of which could cause hayfever-like symptoms.

The short article also referred back to a previous study conducted in 2007, which found that a Christmas tree could increase the number of mold spores in an apartment by about 6 and a half times. A researcher in that study stated that, “As mold growth is common in the area surrounding outdoor foliage, we hypothesized that the presence of a live Christmas tree may be contributing to indoor mold.” The researchers found that mold counts in the air grew continued to grow while the tree was in the room, and did not drop down back down to normal levels until it was taken down.

Cleaning your tree can significantly diminish allergy symptoms.

The authors of the 2007 study suggested a simple solution: shaking as much debris as possible out of the tree before bringing it inside. Elsewhere, those who have suffered from tree-related allergies have found some success in rinsing off the tree with a hose and sprayer, and then leaving the tree somewhere warm to dry for a couple of days before bringing it into the house. Using an air compressor to blow off debris might be an excellent alternative to avoid having to dry the tree out afterward.

The authors of the study had another idea:  simply purchasing an artificial tree.

However, some artificial trees can also cause allergy symptoms in sensitive people.

Artificial Christmas trees that have been improperly stored can accumulate significant amounts of dust, mold spores, and other irritating detritus. In addition, some of the materials used to manufacture artificial Christmas trees could cause sinus irritation for those who are especially sensitive. This means that, regardless of what type of tree you buy, it would be advisable to clean the tree off using one of the methods described above, before bringing it into your home.

Thankfully, the vast majority of people do not have any issues with allergies around Christmas trees, and never have cause to take any precautions. But for those of you who get a bit sneezy around Christmas trees, a little bit of Christmas tree cleanup can make your holiday season much more enjoyable and distraction-free!