Symptoms of Christmas Tree Allergies and How to Survive Them

Sally Painter
Christmas tree allergies

There is a wide range of symptoms for Christmas tree allergies. If you suffer from this type of allergic reaction during this joyous holiday season, there are a few things you can do to survive them.

Symptoms of Christmas Tree Allergies

Allergic reactions to live Christmas tree can occur almost immediately when the tree is brought into the home, or symptoms may take a few days to show up. Some people respond within 24 hours, while others may not react for several days. Many of the symptoms displayed by allergy sufferers are similar to hay fever symptoms, while others are more pronounced:

  • Difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, and asthma
  • Skin rashes that often come and go
  • Constant sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion
  • Watery eyes that also itch

Possible Causes of Christmas Tree Allergies

There's no one factor responsible for allergic reactions during the holiday season, since there are several possible irritants in Christmas trees. Balsam Hill points out that some allergic reactions could be to terpenes, a natural characteristic of a Christmas tree and the compound responsible for that wonderful pine scent. There's not much you can do about that, but there are other factors you can control.

Pollen and Sap

Pollen and tree sap can contribute to allergic reactions in some people. The types of trees most likely to cause an allergic reaction include pine, spruce, and fir. Pine pollen is a well-known allergen, and many allergy sufferers cannot tolerate this tree pollen. Pollen can accumulate in the limbs of Christmas tree and can account for some allergic reactions. Sap is another potential irritant that gets on your skin and can also cause an allergic reaction if you're sensitive to any of these tree species. If you're having problems, avoid pine species and handling the tree too much.

Mold Spores

The Christmas Tree Association warns that a Christmas tree can carry up to 50 different types of mold. Over 66% of these molds present similar symptoms to hay fever. Dr Molly Martyn writing for the Star Tribune seems to agree. She states that most Christmas tree allergies are more likely due to mold and dust harbored in the trees. When you bring a live Christmas tree into your home, the mold spores become airborne. You can greatly reduce the amount of mold by hosing off the tree and allowing it to dry in the sun for a day or two before taking into your home. Use a leaf blower to hasten the drying and get rid of any irritant debris hiding in the branches.

Other Possible Irritants

There are a few other possible causes to consider. To combat these, choose a tree from an organic farm that is as clean as possible.

  • Chemicals - Some tree farms may use chemicals to control various pests and diseases. These have been known to cause both eye and skin irritation.
  • Dust mites: A tree out in the open air is very susceptible to an invasion of microscopic dust mites, especially if the season has been damp.
  • Insect and animal droppings: Even if insect pests have been eliminated via chemical spraying or field mice, birds and squirrels abandoned their perches they can still leave droppings behind that can cause allergic reactions.

How to Survive Christmas Tree Allergies

After you've done everything you can to get a clean, dry tree in a species that doesn't bother you, there are a few other tips to help you survive the holiday season with less sneezing. Give these ideas a shot.

Medications

There are several medications that can treat your symptoms if you cannot give up a live Christmas tree for an artificial one. Healthline offers some helpful suggestions for possible treatments for the symptoms of Christmas tree allergies.

  • Typical medications include antihistamines and decongestants. You can try a few over the counter (OTC) medications to see if they offer any relief from the symptoms.
  • If OTC medicines don't work, it's time to consult your doctor for possible remedies and/or an allergy prescription.
  • Some people turn to homeopathic remedies, such as herbal pills and extract/tinctures.

HEPA Filters

You can also make sure your home's air is as clean as possible. A HEPA air filter may greatly improve the air quality. When you vacuum up those needles, use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter system too.

Neti Pot

Try using a neti pot two times a day. Be sure to only use distilled or sterilized water.

Surviving A Christmas Tree Allergy

Depending on how severely you react to a live Christmas tree in your home, you may decide on another option. While an artificial tree doesn't have that special smell, you may decide it is a better choice than being miserable during the Christmas holiday.

Symptoms of Christmas Tree Allergies and How to Survive Them