What is Christmas tree syndrome? Allergies to trees and decorations explained
As December rolls on, families across the UK are getting their Christmas trees down from the loft and decorating them with ornaments old and new.
But for some people, this annual tradition can bring unexpected allergies. The main culprits behind Christmas tree allergies are mold spores, dust, and pollen. Live trees often harbour mould and allergens, triggering respiratory reactions in sensitive individuals. Mould thrives in the damp conditions trees encounter during growth and transport.
GP at LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, Dr Bhavini Shah, added that the pollen can also cause "Christmas tree syndrome".
She said: "Christmas tree syndrome is a term used to describe allergic reactions or respiratory issues that some people experience when they're around real Christmas trees. People with asthma may suffer from a flare-up of their symptoms or an attack where the airways constrict, which could cause difficulty breathing and wheezing.
"If you are allergic to pollen, you may experience hay fever, typically in the spring and summer months. However, Christmas trees can also contain pollen and therefore may trigger hay fever-like symptoms. If you are sensitive to pollen, or have asthma, it may be wise to buy an artificial Christmas tree instead of a live one."
Artificial trees aren't entirely innocent either. When unpacked after a year in storage, they can accumulate dust and mould spores - as can the decorations themselves. Additionally, the materials used in manufacturing fake trees may release irritating chemicals.
Dr Shah added: "Christmas decorations are stored away collecting dust for much of the year. This means they can trigger allergies because dust often contains a mix of particles like pollen, mould spores and dust mites.
"When disturbed, such as when putting up the tree or decorating, the particles become airborne, potentially triggering allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. To avoid an allergic reaction from dusty decorations, wipe them down with a damp cloth before you decorate your home. You could also try storing them in airtight containers or vacuum bags when not in use.”