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December 15, 2014

How your Christmas tree could make you sick

Daily Briefing

While most people are familiar with the outdoor allergies of spring and summer, like tree pollen and grass pollen, less attention is given to indoor allergies—many of which can be triggered by your very own Christmas tree.

Debunking the biggest allergy myths

Pine scent and mold spores that grow on Christmas trees can trigger allergic reactions, says Dean Mitchell, president of New York-based Allergy Advances Medical. For instance, a 2007 study presented to a scientific meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAA) found that bringing a live Christmas tree into a home can significantly increase indoor mold counts. The study found that, once a pine tree was placed in a subject's home, the mold count in that home increased from 800 spores per cubic meter of air to 5,000 spores per cubic meter.

Symptoms of the allergy—colloquially known as Christmas Tree Syndrome—include:

  • Head congestion;
  • Headaches;
  • Bronchitis;
  • Itchy eyes; and
  • Rashes.

Other allergy triggers during the indoor season include mold from heating systems, pet dander, and dust mites.

Robert Arnold, a family medicine physician in Colorado, says opening your windows for even 15 minutes a day could cut down on airborne allergens. In addition, he says that washing your Christmas tree thoroughly before bringing it into the house and spraying it with a weak bleach solution to keep off mold could prevent allergic reactions.

Arnold cautions that purchasing an artificial tree does not necessarily prevent allergies because dust can gather within the tree and chemicals in the fibers can trigger asthma (Cheney, HealthLeaders Media, 12/12).

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