Tips on handling Christmas tree allergies

Setting up a Christmas tree is a great annual tradition, but if you are allergic, it also means a stuffy nose and itchy eyes.

People can have allergy issues with both real and artificial Christmas trees. The best solution is to avoid, but if you cannot, there are some other remedies.

“The major thing that people are allergic to is actually the mold and the mold spores,” WellSpan Health allergist Dr. Joshua Dunklebarger said.

Even if someone might be allergic to just one type of mold, Dunklebarger said it is likely found on Christmas trees.

“[There are] 50 different mold spores on these Christmas trees that we would bring into our house,” he said.

When Christmas trees grow outside, they attract these mold spores, and the problem only gets worse indoors.

“The mold actually flourishes more when it’s inside the house because it’s warm, it can start to grow, so the mold counts will actually get higher the longer the tree is in the house,” Dunklebarger said.

Dunklebarger said the best thing to do for an allergy is to avoid it, but that is not always realistic.

“Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin that can be very helpful. Wearing long sleeves and trying not to contact the tree can be very helpful,” he said.

Another option is getting an artificial tree, but those can have similar problems when used more than once.

“Mold can also be the exact same problem on an artificial tree if you store it in a damp, moisture-rich place,” Dunklebarger said.

Storing fake trees without a cover is also an issue.

“If you have simple allergies like dust allergies, that can be part of the problem when you bring that dusty, dirty tree in,” Dunklebarger said.

These problems with artificial trees do have easier solutions. Dunklebarger said you can find better places to store the tree or clean it before setting it up.

“If your tree is not pre-lit, you could potentially give the tree a shower,” he said. “And if it looks like it’s starting to get dusty or looks like it’s starting to lose part of its integrity, then probably its time to get a new tree.”

There is one more allergy people have to real trees. Dunklebarger said some people get a rash from the sap, but it is only if they have direct contact with the tree.


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