While the holiday season will likely be more quiet with less guests this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be more unwanted guests this year: allergies. Christmas tree sales are booming. Whether you own a live Christmas tree or an artificial one, allergy and asthma symptoms may worsen in December due to these trees. Christmas tree allergies can happen! In this article, we address why these symptoms worsen around Christmas decorations and what you can do to enjoy these decorations while breathing easier.
How can Christmas trees cause allergies?
If you put up a Christmas tree each year and notice that your allergy symptoms worsen, then you may be wondering what may be the cause. Could it be pine pollen? While pine pollen can be an allergen, this pollen is released in the spring and is not present by the time you bring your Christmas tree home in December. In fact, there are several potential Christmas tree-related allergens:
- Mold: Mold spores have been isolated from live Christmas trees. Artificial trees may be able to grow mold if they are stored in humid or damp places such as basements, attics, or garages.
- Weed pollen: Weed pollen is released in the fall up until the first frost of the season. Depending on when you get your live Christmas tree, weed pollen may still be present.
- Dust mites: Regardless of the type of tree, dust and debris can accumulate. When the trees are disturbed during decorating, your allergy symptoms may get worse.
- Chemicals: Live Christmas trees may have been sprayed with pesticides. This can cause skin or eye irritation pretty quickly from the initial exposure.
- Tree sap: Live Christmas tree sap contains colophony (aka rosin), which can cause a rash that resembles poison-ivy. This rash typically occurs several days after first touching the tree.
- Fragrances: Various compounds such as terpenes and pinenes give the Christmas tree its signature scent. These chemicals and other fragrances used for the holidays can irritate the nasal passages and airways. This increases headaches, allergy and asthma symptoms.
How can you prevent Christmas trees allergies?
There are many steps you can take to help prevent symptoms:
- Cover your skin: Wear gloves and long sleeves to avoid skin irritation when you’re handling your tree. Change your clothes when you are done.
- Give your tree a shower: Shake your tree off and hose it down to reduce the dirt, mold, and pollen. Let the tree dry for a few days before you put it in your house.
- Consider your tree storage: Artificial trees that are reused should be stored in sealed bags or containers. They should be placed in a cool, dry place when not in use.
- Consider an air purifier: If you already own an air purifier, you could relocate it near the tree to see if that helps. Do not buy an air purifier just for Christmas trees. There is not enough evidence to support the cost.
- Consider an artificial tree: You may need to find an alternative tree if your Christmas tree is causing you significant symptoms.
- Allergy treatments: You may need to take more allergy medications while your Christmas tree is in your house.
When should you see your allergist?
Have you tried the suggestions above and not found relief? Would you like to know what is causing your symptoms? Then it is time to see an allergist!
At Oak Brook Allergists, you will receive a world-class allergy evaluation and treatment from a leading board-certified allergist here in the greater Chicago area. Our goal is to determine what is causing your symptoms, provide treatment that works for you, and help you prevent allergic reactions in the future.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment with an allergist, contact our friendly staff today by calling us at (630) 574-0460. You can also fill out our appointment request form online. We look forward to helping you enjoy your holiday season in an allergy-free lifestyle!