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Christmas tree syndrome

Putting up a Christmas tree is a holiday tradition that rings in the season and lights up your home with the smell of evergreen, sparkling lights, and colorful decorations. But did you know that your tree can be a source of mold, leading to something that has been appropriately dubbed “Christmas tree syndrome?”

An article published in 2018 delved into the very real potential for health issues related to Christmas trees, naming the syndrome because of the 1 in ever 3 people who begin suffering symptoms after a Christmas tree is set up in the home. The core cause of these symptoms is mold, which causes allergic reactions due to the inhaled spores it releases.

A study conducted by researchers at St. Vincent’s Medical Center revealed that a room containing a single fresh Christmas tree for a period of two weeks contained five times the mold levels of a normal room. In another, similar study, the level of mold spores increased to over six times the normal level, again in just two weeks. According to other studies not limited to Christmas trees, levels of mold this high can cause symptoms of asthma and allergic rhinitis, so it’s not hard to see why Christmas Tree Syndrome starts.

Mold is a common trigger for allergies and asthma, as outlined in our previous article about mold sensitivity. This is what Christmas tree syndrome boils down to- a sensitivity to mold spires living in your tree. What are the typical symptoms?

  1. Asthma attacks
  2. Itching and pain in the sinuses
  3. Runny nose
  4. Sneezing
  5. Wheezing
  6. Coughing
  7. Cold like symptoms, especially if they lessen when not in close proximity to the Christmas tree

Mold spores are naturally found on Christmas trees and carried into your home, but it’s the moisture and warmth of central heating that cause them to flourish. The easiest solution is to use an artificial tree, of course, but keep in mind that they can still get dusty (or even moldy!) if they are not cleaned and stored properly, in a dry area and ideally within plastic tubs.

If you have to have a live Christmas tree in your home, and I know I do, then here are some tips to minimize the risk of mold and allergens:

  1. Wash your tree with a hose and let it dry completely before bringing it inside. If you buy your tree at a nursery, see if they can do this for you.
  2. Clean all lights an ornaments before putting them on the tree, and again before storing them- preferably in a plastic container to keep out dust and moisture through the year.
  3. If you’re already sensitive to mold, limit your exposure by keeping a live tree inside no longer than a week and/or moving it outdoors the day after Christmas.
  4. Keep an air purifier running in the same room as the tree.
  5. Use over-the-counter allergy medication to alleviate symptoms.

Concerned about mold? Have questions about prevention or getting rid of it once you find it? Give the Flood Medix a call and help make your holiday season a more peaceful one!