Christmas Tree Syndrome, an allergic reaction to real or artificial trees, can cause wheezing, sneezing, coughs, sore eyes and even potentially serious asthma attacks.
National Asthma Council Australia spokesperson, Professor Sheryl Van Nunen, said what is most surprising is that both real Christmas trees as well as artificial trees have their own dangers.
‘Real Christmas trees like cypress and pine can collect high amounts of pollen from other plants before they are cut down, which can trigger asthma and hay fever symptoms once you bring them home,’ she said. ‘Artificial trees can be a safe alternative but, if used year after year, they accumulate dust or mould, which may be invisible to the naked eye.
‘Even the most exciting part of the Christmas tree tradition – decorating – can put you at risk too if festive decorations have become dusty in storage,’ she explained.
Professor Van Nunen says those with allergies and/or asthma can still have a Christmas tree if they wipe artificial trees clean of dust and mould with a damp cloth or take a hose to the real version.
‘You can reduce the risks by simply hosing off the tree before you bring it in the house and letting it dry, as you will greatly reduce the amount of pollen and dust,’ she said.
Tips to help keep your festive season free of wheezing and sneezing
Professor Van Nunen said that if you have asthma or allergies, it’s important to be aware of your triggers and manage them if possible.
The National Asthma Council Australia suggests that if you would like to use a real tree, hose down your live tree before you bring it into the house to help to wash off the allergens. If you notice increased asthma or allergy symptoms, move your tree outside.
If you choose an artificial tree, give it a good shake outdoors before you put it up inside.
Remember to unpack your tree and decorations outside, and vacuum them as you get them out of the box. Wipe down your artificial tree, wreaths and ornaments with a damp cloth to remove the dust.
When you pack your tree and decorations away, use airtight plastic bags and sealed boxes so they collect less dust.