What is a Christmas tree allergy?

If you always seems to come down with a cold during the winter holidays you may be allergic to Christmas trees. Or, to put it more accurately, you may be allergic to somthing related to Christmas trees but not necessarly to the tree itself.

Many people think that plant-based allergies only occur in warm weather but there are a number of reasons why your tannenbaum may be the real cause of your symptoms. In fact, one study of allergic patients published in the Canadian Medical Association journal found that 7% of the population experience symptoms as a result of being exposed to pine trees.    

What are symptoms of a Christmas tree allergy?

The first time you’re exposed to a specific allergen you won’t experience symptoms because it takes time for your immune system to develop antibodies in response to the trigger. The majority of patients in the aforementioned study developed symptoms within 24 hours but 15% of them did not show a reaction for several days.  In some cases this sensitization process can take months or even years which explains why you may develop allergies later in life. 

Once you develop an allergy to Christmas trees you may experience the following sypmtoms:     

Causes of a Christmas tree allergy

Multiple factors can trigger an allergic reaction related to Christmas trees and not all of them are related to botanical properties of the tree itself.  

What can you do to prevent Christmas tree allergies?

Avoiding live trees may be the most effective way to control Chistmas tree allergies. You can always buy an artifical tree and use a pine scented air freshener if you miss the smell. However, be warned that even this approach offers no guarantee because artifical trees can also accumlate dust and mold spores while air fresheners may contain fragrance made with terpines. Regardless of the type of tree you chose, the following cleaning and storage tips can help reduce your exposure to allergens.

  1. Shake the tree to remove as much debris as possible before bringing it in the house. This step can reduce dust and pollen.
  2. Hose down live trees before bringing them in the house if possible. Mold spores thrive on moisture so be sure to first thoroughly dry the tree by leaving it in the sun or by using a leaf blower or air compressor.
  3. Spray live trees with a dilute chlorine bleach solution to kill mold spores. Some sources claims that the bleach will also reduce the scent of terpenes.
  4. Wipe artificial trees and ornaments with a soft, dry cloth to keep them dust free. (Ornaments made of solid materials like glass, metal and plastic are easier to clean than one made from soft fabric.)
  5. Dispose of your live tree as soon as possible because mold spores continues to reproduce as long as the tree is inside your house.
  6. Store artificial trees in a dry, cool space. Sealing the tree sections in a box or plastic bag will reduce dust accumulation throughout the year.
  7. Inspect stored trees every 4 to 6 months to ensure there is no infestation of insects or rodents.
  8. Wear a mask when retrieving artificial trees and ornaments from storage.

To learn more

If you suspect that you suffer from Christmas tree allergies (or other seasonal allergies) you can schedule a consultation with Dr. Caballero at Advanced Sinus and Allergy Center.  Call (847) 655-7442 or click the Request Appointment button at the top of this page.

References

Author
Randy Schueller Randy is Director of Operations for Advanced Sinus and Allergy Center. He has over 30 years experience in Research and Development and is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

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