It’s Christmas! Time for…Christmas Tree Syndrome?

Dr. Erinn Gardner
Dr. Erinn Gardner

For many, it would not be Christmas without the smell of a live tree. For others, the holidays bring a season of sneezing, runny nose, and fatigue. Why? Because they have Christmas Tree Syndrome. This ailment, which is upper respiratory in nature and sometimes quite severe, is actually an allergic reaction to mold spores that attach to live trees and end up in your home.

Doctors report an increase in respiratory illnesses around the holidays, as well as an increase in emergency room visits for those with asthma. In a research study, 53 different kinds of mold were found on a sample of 26 live trees. Most of these mold species can potentially trigger an allergic reaction. The study also revealed the longer a tree is in your home, the higher the mold count can go.

If you have a history of respiratory illness during the holidays, discuss this with your allergist; he may recommend you get tested for mold sensitivity.

“The holidays are a joyous time, meant to be spent enjoying family, friends, and long-held traditions,” said Dr. Erinn Gardner of Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic. “One of the best parts of the season for many families is bringing a live Christmas tree into the home, decorating it, and enjoying it through the season. Unfortunately for some, trees can trigger allergic reactions that can ruin the festivities. ”

The good news is there are several things you can do to get along with your tree and minimize your allergic symptoms. Here are a few tips that will cut down on holiday stuffiness:

· If you must have a live tree, wash it and let it dry thoroughly before bringing it in the house.

· Opt for an artificial tree. Wash it or clean it with a compressed air duster, as these trees can gather dust and/or mold depending on how they are stored.

· Clean ornaments and lights before decorating, as they also can gather dust and mold. Store decorations in plastic containers.

· Run an air purifier in the same room as the tree.

· Limit the length of time the live tree is in your home. Seven days or less is the recommendation if you are sensitive to mold. 

The holiday season is all about family, fun, and festivities. Don’t let Christmas Tree Syndrome be your Scrooge this year. Taking a few simples steps can ensure you and your family are ho-ho-hoing until the merry end.


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