‘Tis the season for— but in some cases, it might be what’s inside your house this holiday that’s making you feel less than happy: your Christmas tree.
Dubbed “Christmas tree syndrome,” experts say it can make your indoor allergies flare up. It is not an allergy to the wood itself, but what is hidden on it.
“When you bring a Christmas tree into the home, people have worse allergy symptoms,” says Dr. DeVon Preston, an allergist at the Cleveland Clinic. He says it’s not pine pollen from real trees that causes the problem, as people often think.
“It’s more weed pollen and mold spores that collect on the Christmas trees, and then you bring them into the home, and then those pollens kind of fall off and make a lot of your symptoms worse,” he explains. “People just don’t think about the fact that they might need to clean their trees before they bring them into the home.”
That’s what experts said CBS News Texas that it is best to rinse real trees with a significant amount of water and shake them while they are still outdoors to remove some of the access allergens and irritants.
Having an allergy to pine trees is actually uncommon, but doctors say the pine smell can irritate the sinuses and lungs.
“If they use a living tree, it’s a pine tree, and they don’t pollinate in the middle of winter. But they’re living things that die, and what grows on dying things is mold,” Dr. Mark Millard. pulmonologist at Baylor Scott & White Health, told CBS News Texas.
If you have one, you are not necessarily out of the woods. Allergens like dust and mold can build up on these types of trees and decorations during their months in storage and trigger symptoms when you bring them into your living space.
“We tend to store them in places in the home that have a lot of dust and dust mites. Or if they’re put in places that are humid and very hot … you can generate mold,” says Preston. “And we rarely store these decorations and artificial trees in an airtight container.”
To reduce some of the irritation, try vacuuming the branches to remove any dust that may have accumulated during storage.
If you choose a real tree, it is best to get rid of it right after the holidays, because mold can continue to grow on the tree.
According to American Christmas Tree Association, studies show that Christmas trees can carry around 50 types of mold and can increase the number of mold spores in an apartment by more than six times. The longer the wood stays in your home, the higher the mold spore count can become.
“If you have really significant allergies, it might be a good time to put an air purifier next to the tree,” suggests Preston. “If all of this still doesn’t work, then it’s time to think about some of the over-the-counter nasal steroids, nasal antihistamines, or oral antihistamines to help with these symptoms.”