Do you have “Christmas Tree Syndrome”?



More than one third of all American households are putting up a Christmas tree in their homes this holiday season.   If families find themselves sneezing with a runny nose and itchy eyes once their tree is up, they just might be allergic to the tree! Yes, even those fake trees can trigger a reaction!

Physicians at American Family Care are trying to raise awareness about what’s called “Christmas Tree Syndrome” so people don’t confuse their symptoms with a common cold and can properly prepare for this holiday tradition.  

Respiratory illnesses peak around Christmas, according to research published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.  Within 2 weeks of putting a tree up, you can experience symptoms due to either the smell of pine resin in “live” trees or various molds found in the trees.

Christmas Tree Syndrome:

  1. Severe asthma attacks
  2. Fatigue
  3. Sinus congestion

A study conducted by researchers State University of New York found that 70 percent of the molds found in live Christmas trees trigger some sort of reaction.  Before this study in 2011, it was thought the allergies were sparked by tree pollen and weed killer applied to trees.

How to Avoid “Christmas Tree Syndrome”:

 (sources: American Christmas Tree Association and Prevention)

For live trees:

  • Live trees naturally carry microscopic mold spores that can trigger allergy symptoms. Allergic reactions can happen instantly or within the first two weeks of putting up a live tree
  • Tree sap contains terpene and other substances that can irritate skin and mucous membranes
  • Wear gloves and long sleeves when bringing the tree indoors to avoid sap touching your skin
  • Spray off the tree and its branches with water before bringing it into your house to help remove some of the pollen and mold (before this, you can also give it a good shake or a blast with a leaf blower)
  • Sit the tree stump in a bucket of water and let it dry outside for a few days to prevent mold from growing
  • Families with severe allergies should avoid purchasing a live tree
  • However, if they just can’t resist this holiday tradition, families should only have the live tree in their home for no more than seven days

For artificial trees:

  • Store them properly – wrap the tree securely, store in a cool and dry place, and avoid storing in places that accumulate dust and dirt
  • Wipe down the tree before putting it up in your home
  • Wipe down your ornaments too
  • Some of the materials used to make artificial trees can cause sinus irritation
  • Go easy on the spray snow to frost your windows - any aerosolized chemical can cause irritant reactions in the eyes, nose or lungs  

(sources: American Christmas Tree Association and Prevention)

Tips to Avoid a “Danger Tree”:

  1. Each holiday, around 230 home fires start with Christmas trees. These fires cause an average of six deaths, 22 injuries and $18.3 million in direct property damage.
  2.  Make sure live trees are fresh (deep green, not brown); trunk should be sticky and wet with resin
  3. Make sure a large number of needles don’t come loose when you tap the tree trunk on the ground
  4. Artificial trees should have a “fire resistant” label
  5. Keep all trees away from heat sources like fireplaces and candles
  6. Use lights tested for safety by nationally recognized testing labs
  7. Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace. It could cause a flash fire

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