HCN News & Notes

‘Christmas Tree Syndrome’ Symptoms Mimic Colds, Flu

WEST SPRINGFIELD — AFC Doctors Express, the largest independent urgent-care provider in the Commonwealth, announced that more than one-third of American households will put up a Christmas tree during the holiday season — and those that sneeze and have a runny nose or itchy eyes once the tree is up might have a case of ‘Christmas tree syndrome’ – an allergic reaction to the tree (real or fake).

The reaction sparked by a Christmas tree could be caused by various factors, from simply the smell of the tree to the pine resin or molds found on live Christmas trees. According to researchers at the State University of New York, 70{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of the molds found on live Christmas trees can cause severe asthma attacks, fatigue, sinus congestion, and more. It was previously thought that the pollen and weed killer applied to Christmas trees were the cause of allergic reactions related to the trees.

The good news is that the effects of Christmas tree syndrome can be prevented by limited exposure to the allergens found on the trees. Here are some tips for preventing health issues.

For live trees:

• Wear gloves and long sleeves when bringing the tree indoors to keep sap from touching skin;

• Shake out the tree or blow it with a leaf blower, then spray off the tree and its branches with water before bringing it into the house to help remove pollen and mold;

• Sit the tree stump in a bucket of water and let it dry outside for a few days to prevent mold from growing; and

• Families with severe allergies should avoid putting up a live tree; however, if they do, they should leave the tree up for no more than a week.

For artificial trees:

• Be sure to store the artificial tree properly during the off season by wrapping the tree securely and storing it in a cool and dry place (avoid storing in places that accumulate dust and dirt);

• Wipe the tree down before putting it up in your home;

• Clean ornaments before decorating the tree; and

• Go easy on the spray snow to frost your windows; any aerosolized chemical can cause irritant reactions in the eyes, nose, or lungs.

Additionally, ‘danger trees’ should be avoided. Each holiday, around 230 home fires start with Christmas trees. These fires cause an average of six deaths, 22 injuries, and $18.3 million in direct property damage. To avoid a danger tree:

• Make sure live trees are fresh (deep green, not brown, and the trunk should be sticky and wet with resin);

• Make sure a large number of needles don’t come loose when you tap the tree trunk on the ground; and

• Artificial trees should have a ‘fire-resistant’ label.

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