It’s that time of year again!
While we don’t always make a mental connection between the holidays and allergies, there is one type of allergen that can cause uncomfortable symptoms more in December than any other time: Christmas trees.
Even if you don’t display a tree in your own home, it’s hard to avoid Christmas trees in the office or at friends’ homes during the month of December.
The good news is that you don’t need to walk around feeling like Santa’s red-nosed reindeer all season. We’ve got five ways to prevent Christmas tree allergy symptoms (none of which include forgoing annual traditions).
Christmas tree syndrome is just another term for a Christmas tree allergy.
If you suffer from allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, itching eyes and nose, inflammation, congestion (or others) when your live or fake Christmas tree slides into its stand each year, you may be allergic to the tree itself — or one or a few “friends” clinging to the tree’s branches, such as mold, dust, pollen or terpenes.
Live Christmas tree-related allergens include tree pollen and terpene (both of which are made by the tree) or mold spores (which can grow on the tree in humid or damp conditions).
Evergreen tree allergies to trees such as fir, pine and balsam are possible but quite uncommon. Yet, pollen from other sources like ragweed or grass especially in warmer climates can land on your tree and be brought into your home on your tree needles and branches.
Other allergens, such as mold, can grow on trees and may become airborne when the tree’s branches are jostled. Mold spores when brought into a warm, heated home can also quickly multiply.
Since mold grows in humid climates, you may want to wait a few days after it rains to pick out a live tree. Or, if size permits consider wiping down your tree before bringing it into your home.
Consider finding a Christmas tree farm with a mechanical shaker that can help remove excessive mold as well.
Some trees contain aromatic compounds called terpenes that can trigger allergies.
These terpenes are what give evergreen trees their pine scent — but these terpenes can also cause uncomfortable allergy symptoms, too. Balsam firs often produce the most fragrant scent, so avoiding this type of tree may be a good idea if you experience uncomfortable allergy symptoms after noticing the smell of evergreen trees.
If you suspect you’re allergic to an allergen like mold or pollen on your tree, you may want to get tested for allergies. An allergy test can detect more than two dozen of the most common indoor and outdoor allergens.
If you cut down your own Christmas tree each year, you may be taking more home than just your tree.
Pasta, such as mice and insects, leave their droppings and dander on trees in the forest. Everything that has touched your tree may end up in your home if you don’t properly shake or wipe down your tree before bringing it inside.
While pre-cut trees may also contain pest droppings and dander, vendors often shake or wipe down the trees before displaying them so you may not need to clean these as thoroughly.
If you’re allergic to pine, fir, balsam and other evergreen trees, you may assume that buying a fake tree will keep you out of the woods with allergy symptoms, right?
Not necessarily. Some people with such allergies may also be allergic to indoor allergens, such as mold, dust, insects and pest droppings — all of which can end up on your tree.
Mold grows in humid, damp conditions and poorly ventilated rooms and storage spaces.
If you store your tree in a room with poor insulation (such as an attic, crawlspace, basement, shed or other areas), mold can grow on your tree from January through October.
When you take out your tree in November, mold spores will shake loose and become airborne.
Dust can easily settle on your tree when it’s stored.
When you dismantle your tree each year, store the sections in plastic bags or roll them up in tarps. Wipe down your tree before assembling and decorating it (or better yet, ask a family member without allergies to do this for you).
Store your ornaments and decorations in plastic bags or bins to help prevent them from collecting dust or mold, too.
When you first remove your tree for the season consider wearing a mask and gloves.
If you suffer from an allergy to your tree or the allergens that it carries, don’t ditch your holiday traditions just yet. You may not need to avoid holiday cheer just because your tree seems to be rebelling against you.
There are ways to treat the symptoms of Christmas tree allergies (and treat allergies at their root cause).
If you don’t know what triggers your allergies, you can’t treat or prevent symptoms.
Getting tested for allergies will inform you which trees you’re allergic to (if any) or if you’re allergic to substances associated with fake or live trees — such as mold or dust mites.
Curex offers two types of at-home allergy testing, including a concierge blood draw service and self-testing.
Order an at-home self-test, and you’ll get a kit shipped to your home that includes everything you need to collect blood samples. Mail your samples to the lab and get your results within a few weeks.
Don’t love the idea of collecting your own blood samples? Order an at-home concierge test instead with a phlebotomist. Simply schedule via text or online, and a certified medical professional will travel to your home or office to perform a blood draw. It takes just five minutes, and you receive your results within days. Every visit includes a complimentary telehealth visit with a Curex clinician.
Results are available within three to five days — just in time for you to pick out your Christmas tree.
Choosing a Christmas tree isn’t all about shape, size and ambiance.
Once you’ve been tested for allergies, you may be able to know if your symptoms are triggered by mold, dust or tree pollen — or all of the above.
If you’re allergic to mold, you can opt for a tree that is less likely to bring mold into your family room. If you’re buying a new fake tree, opt for one that has been stored in a box in a dry place.
If you experience sensitivity to fir trees for example, and not spruces, your local Christmas tree farmer or vendor if they carry trees that don’t trigger symptoms.
Yes, you heard that right. One way to avoid tree allergens is to “clean” your tree.
Some tree farms have machines that shake off dirt, mold, insects and other debris.
Store your fake tree in an area of the home where mold is less likely to grow (think a closet instead of a damp attic or basement). If you have a fake tree that is covered in dust, ask a family member (preferably one who doesn’t suffer from dust allergies) to shake the tree outdoors and brush down its branches with a dustpan brush.
Consider purchasing a dehumidifier if you must store your tree in an area that is prone to moisture.
Don’t forget about your other decorations, too. Lights, ornaments, garlands and wreaths can all collect dust and mold. Pay special attention to soft decorations, such as holiday throws, balsam pillows and knit ornaments. The scents from seasonal candles can irritate the airway.
The biggest downside to medications is that they often come with side effects that may become increasingly uncomfortable after prolonged use. Since Christmas trees usually only remain on display for 30 to 45 days, allergy medications may be a good solution for such a short window of time.
If you are allergic to mold, dust, mites or other indoor allergens often associated with Christmas trees, allergy medications may only be a short-term solution for a much larger issue. If winter allergens cause symptoms throughout the colder months, you may want to try a long-term solution, such as allergy immunotherapy.
Allergy immunotherapy is another treatment that has proven effective at preventing allergy symptoms.
Unlike allergy medications, allergy immunotherapy doesn’t only address the symptoms of allergies — it also treats the root cause of allergies, providing long-term results.
Allergy immunotherapy is available in two forms.
Subcutaneous immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots) is an injection. Trace amounts of allergens are injected into the body in increasing doses, allowing the immune system to build a resistance to offending allergens over time.
Allergy shots are usually administered weekly during the build-up phase and monthly during the maintenance phase.
Don’t want to travel to a doctor’s office weekly to get allergy relief?
Curex’s at-home sublingual allergy immunotherapy is also available. Doses may be administered daily at home (usually without clinician supervision).
The average amount of time it takes to see results is usually six months — but results vary, as every allergy sufferer is different. We recommend starting allergy immunotherapy six months to a year before the season that causes the most uncomfortable symptoms.
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