Are you suffering from Christmas Tree Syndrome?

Are you suffering from Christmas Tree Syndrome?

Looking at Christmas trees and decorating them is a popular holiday tradition, but could something so beautiful that brings so much cheer actually end up spoiling the holiday fun?

If you have an artificial Christmas tree, you might be in the clear, but for those of us who are putting up a live tree every year, beware that Christmas trees are a source for mold.

Did you know roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population is allergic to mold?

Since 1970, researchers have been conducting studies to determine how much mold grows on our Christmas trees and how harmful this mold can be.

In a 2011 study from State University of New York in Syracuse, researchers analyzed 28 Christmas trees and found 53 mold species. 70 percent of the 53 species were identified as being potentially harmful.

“Mold spores are dangerous when they reach elevated levels,” says Dr. Uma Gavani, an allergy and asthma specialist with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “While mold can grow on Christmas trees and become dangerous, it’s more likely those with a mold allergy will be affected by the tree, and others will not.”

Dr. Gavani says these are typical Christmas Tree Syndrome symptoms:

  • Watery or sore eyes
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Itchy or runny nose
  • Chest pains
  • Difficulty breathing

If you’re not willing to buy an artificial Christmas tree, Dr. Gavani says there are ways to protect yourself from Christmas Tree Syndrome. She recommends:

  • Wash your tree before bringing it inside
  • Don’t keep your tree for too long. Instead, buy it closer to the holiday and get rid of it soon after
  • Make sure humidity levels are kept low to reduce the growth of mold

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  1. This article borders on alarmist; almost irresponsible. Any plant in a home can potentially have mold. Any source of moisture may have mold including grout, shower curtains, dishwashers, refrigerator gaskets, and on and on. If a live tree makes you sneeze, take a Benadryl or next year, buy a plastic tree, which likely has issues of it’s own (cancer). I do not see how anyone benefits from panicking everyone over nothing.

  2. Jamie:

    Most of the trees that you find on the Christmas tree lots have been there since the 1st cut. Buying late only adds to the mold potential, since the tree has been sitting on the lot for weeks, exposed to rain and snow.

  3. You have got to be kidding me. Perhaps you could just wrap yourself in plastic wrap so that you never are exposed to anything that might negatively impact you.

    Wash your tree? Joking, right?

  4. LOL. Don’t buy a real tree because 13% of the population might be affected by mold allergies and a study done on 28 Christmas trees in New York backs it up?? COME ON! Anyone with a severe mold allergy would be well aware of this and already conscious of the ‘potential dangers’ of trees in their home. I think so many kids have allergy issues these days because we are so over-sensitive with this stuff. Parents read articles like this and then get spooked that they may be causing their kid some unseen harm… it’s total nonsense. I am all for getting useful information to people who need it, but please don’t make getting a Christmas tree some kind of weird allergy safety issue. Where in New York were these 28 trees taken from anyways, what variety, and what was the mold level: super high or not-so-bad? The science is lacking here to say the least, hopefully people reading have a sense of humor!

About the Author

Jamie Bonnema
Jamie Bonnema

Jamie Bonnema, health enews contributor, is a specialist of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She earned her BA in communications from DePaul University in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, going to concerts, and cheering on the Chicago Cubs.