Experts from the National Asthma Council Australia have warned that putting up the much-loved Christmas tree can cause ‘Christmas tree syndrome’ – an allergic reaction that causes wheezing, sneezing, coughs, sore eyes and potentially serious asthma attacks.
Even more surprising is that both real and artificial Christmas trees each have their own dangers.
Real Christmas trees, like cypress and pine, can collect high amounts of pollen from other plants before they’re cut down, which can trigger asthma and hay fever symptoms once you bring them home. Artificial trees can also cause problems if they gather dust, dust mites, or even mould in storage.
National Asthma Council’s Sensitive Choice Program Manager David Furniss says most people are unaware that real Christmas trees often harbour pollen, and can trigger asthma and hay fever symptoms.
‘Pollen can have a big impact causing your asthma symptoms to get worse,’ he said. ‘Artificial trees can be a safe alternative but, if used year after year, they accumulate dust, dust mites and even mould in storage.
‘Even the most exciting part of the Christmas tree tradition – decorating – can put you at risk too, if decorations in storage have become dusty,’ said Mr Furniss.
Tips to keep asthma (and the grinch) at bay
The National Asthma Council Australia suggests the following tips to help keep your festive season free of wheezing and sneezing.
If you have a live Christmas tree in your home, hose down your tree before you bring it into the house to help to wash off the allergens.
If you notice increased asthma or allergy symptoms, move the tree outside.
If you prefer an artificial Christmas tree, give it a good shake outdoors before you put it up inside. Unpack your tree and decorations outside and vacuum them as you get them out of the box.
Remember to wipe down your artificial tree, wreaths and ornaments with a damp cloth to remove the dust.
When you pack your tree and decorations away after Christmas, use airtight plastic bags and sealed boxes so they collect less dust for next time.
If you are living with asthma, the National Asthma Council says it’s important to be aware of your asthma triggers and manage the risks.
‘You should also continue to follow the written asthma action plan that you have developed with your doctor, said David Furniss. ‘Make sure you have your medication with you and take it as advised by your doctor, even if you are out celebrating during the festive season or away on holidays.’
For more information on asthma and allergies, visit the National Asthma Council Australia website: www.nationalasthma.org.au