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The festive season is upon us, bringing joy, merriment, and the beloved tradition of decorating our homes with Christmas trees. However, for some individuals, this cheerful tradition can take an unexpected turn due to a phenomenon known as Christmas Tree Syndrome.

The Christmas tree syndrome is an onset of respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, sneezing, sore eyes, coughs and asthma or hay fever attacks due to the pollen trapped on the pine or cypress trees before they are cut down to be used as Christmas trees. These trees act as pollen traps attracting other weeds, grass, and spring pollen. When a person allergic to these triggers inhale the air or is in the same room as the Christmas tree, they will suffer from mild to severe attacks of asthma and allergic rhinitis according to the National Asthma Council Australia.

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Causes Of The Christmas Tree Syndrome:

Christmas tree syndrome could be caused by both live and artificial trees. Some of the reasons for this are:

  • Live trees such as pine and cypress which are used as Christmas trees often gather grass, weed and other tree pollen from their surroundings before cutting down. This pollen starts spreading in the air and circulates in the house as the tree starts drying down.
  • Artificial trees when used year after year will have dust collected during the storage and mould grown on the tree. These allergens could be the triggers for some people.
  • Most of us reuse the decorations and lights which collects dust when not used. These decorations when reused can trigger the respiratory symptoms or an allergic reaction.

Symptoms Of Christmas Tree Syndrome:

Common symptoms include sneezing, coughing, nasal congestion, itchy or watery eyes, and fatigue. Individuals with asthma or other respiratory conditions may experience exacerbated symptoms, making the holiday season less enjoyable.

Managing Christmas Tree Syndrome:

There are many effective ways to minimise the spread of triggers and help you celebrate a merry
Christmas. They are:

  • Live Trees: Select a fresh one and let the non-allergic member in your family bring the live tree and hose it down to remove any allergens before bringing it inside.
    – Remove the live tree as soon as the Christmas is over before it starts drying.
  • Artificial trees: Clean the tree thoroughly outside the house and vacuum it as it gets removed from the box.
  • Decorations and lights: Clean the decorations, garlands, wreaths, and lights thoroughly with a damp cloth before putting them up on the tree.
  • Get your asthma action plan updated and ready. If you do not have an asthma action plan, speak to a doctor and get it done immediately before the festive season starts.
  • Get all your asthma medications ready and carry them along with you when visiting a friend/relative’s house. Ran out of medication? Get your online prescription in the matter of  minutes.
  • If there are increased symptoms of asthma or Hay fever when the live tree is inside the
    home, move it out immediately.
  • Take care while packing the tree or decorations for the upcoming year, use airtight packaging
    to minimize the collection of dust or mould.

As we revel in the holiday festivities, it is crucial to be mindful of potential health challenges like Christmas Tree Syndrome. By making informed choices, such as selecting a fresh tree, hosing it down before bringing it inside the house, cleaning and vacuuming an artificial tree, cleaning the decorations thoroughly and having the asthma action plan and medication ready, we can ensure a joyful and healthy holiday season for all. Let us deck the halls with care, creating a joyous Christmas that brings smiles without triggering allergies.

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Reference

1. Christmas trees and asthma – National Asthma Council Australia: Reference Link

2. Canberra Times – Christmas Tree Syndrome: Reference Link

3. Medical News today Reference Link

4. Asthma Australia: Reference Link

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