Christmas Tree Syndrome

Is there such a thing as Christmas Tree Syndrome?  Surprisingly there is.  And it all has to do with mold spores and pollen.  About 85% of the trees we buy are pre-cut weeks ahead of time.  The trees are cut, baled, packed and shipped. 

Unfortunately, moisture and the tight bundling of trees supports an ideal environment for mold growth.  In many cases, once the tree gets into your home the mold on the tree begins reproducing.  This can trigger an allergic reaction known as “Christmas Tree Syndrome.”Christmas Tree Syndrome

If you have allergies or asthma, you should also be aware that a fresh cut Christmas tree can trigger an allergic reaction.  About 7% of the population with allergies suffer from Christmas tree allergies.  

Typical allergic reactions include:

  • A stuffy nose when you bring the tree or any pine inside your home in December.

  • Watery eyes, trouble breathing.
  • More frequent use of an asthma inhaler over the holidays.

  • Itchy, red bumps and rash when you string lights on your real Christmas tree, a tree related dermatitis 

Another allergen associated with Christmas trees is pollen.  It is not the pine pollen, a spring event, which causes the problem but pollen from other plants which ride into your home by way of the Christmas tree. 

What can you do?

  • Consider purchasing a self-cut tree.  By cutting your tree yourself you bypass the storage and transportation conditions that promote mold growth. 
  • If you buy a pre-cut tree, there are several ideas to prepare it to bring indoors. 
    • Clean and wipe the trunk of the tree thoroughly before bringing it into the house.  Use a solution of water and 10% bleach.
    • Give your tree a shower to knock of mold, pollen and dirt.  Hose down your real tree before you bring it inside and let it dry for a few days in a garage or outside if it’s warm enough.

    • Consider using the service at tree lots where a machine shakes off dirt and dead needles.

    • Use a leaf blower to remove pollen and dirt before bringing the tree indoors.

  • Consider removing the tree from your home sooner, reducing exposure.
  • Use a high-performance room air purifier in the same room as the tree.  

By taking a few simple precautions, you can make your holiday season decorative, delightful and, best of all, allergy free.