Christmas treeIt’s the most wonderful time of the year — that is unless your Christmas tree causes you to have an allergic reaction. More than one third of American households will put up a Christmas tree during the holiday season, and if you find yourself sneezing with a runny nose and itchy eyes once the tree is up, you might have a case of “Christmas tree syndrome”  — an allergic reaction to your tree, real or artificial.

The reaction sparked by your Christmas tree could be caused by various factors, from simply the smell of the tree, to the pine resin or molds found on live Christmas trees. According to researchers at the State University of New York, 70 percent of the molds found on live Christmas trees can cause severe asthma attacks, fatigue, sinus congestion and more. It was previously thought that the pollen and weed killer applied to Christmas trees were the cause of allergic reactions related to the trees.

The good news is that the effects of Christmas tree syndrome can be prevented by limiting exposure to the allergens found on the trees. Here are some tips for preventing Christmas tree syndrome and how to to avoid putting up a “danger tree.”

For live trees:

  • Wear gloves and long sleeves when bringing the tree indoors to keep sap from touching your skin.
  • Shake out your Christmas tree or blow it with a leaf blower, then spray off the tree and its branches with water before bringing it into your house to help remove pollen and mold.
  • 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 putting up a live tree in their homes. However, if you just can’t resist the holiday spirit and must purchase a live tree, leave the tree up for no more than a week.

For artificial trees:

  • Be sure to store your artificial tree properly during the off season – 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 any ornaments before decorating the tree.
  • Go easy on the spray snow to frost your windows — any aerosolized chemical can cause irritant reactions in the eyes, nose or lungs.

To avoid a “danger tree:”

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.

  • Make sure live trees are fresh (deep green, not brown); trunk should be sticky and wet with resin.
  • Make sure a large number of needles don’t come loose when you tap the tree trunk on the ground.
  • Artificial trees should have a “fire resistant” label.

If you suspect you’re suffering from Christmas tree syndrome, stop in and see us at AFC. We can help determine whether it’s your tree that’s making you ill or if there’s a more serious reason for some of those symptoms, like a cold or the flu.