• Melissa Laity

Are You Allergic to Christmas?

For many people, the approach of Christmas this year is a welcomed relief as it heralds the countdown to the end of what has been a difficult year.

As early as November, all around the world, people started getting out their decorations and putting up their trees in an effort to start celebrations early, and leave their 2020 troubles behind.

But, Christmas is not everyone’s favorite time of the year. There are many mixed emotions around Christmas time, even for people who don’t celebrate the holiday. However there is one, often forgotten group for whom Christmas represents a whole other set of difficulties. The allergy sufferer.

For some people Christmas trimmings can trigger allergy symptoms including sneezing, sore/itching eyes, skin rashes, coughing, wheezing, food allergies and potentially, a serious asthma attack.

For decades, epidemics of allergic respiratory illnesses have been observed across all age groups in the week before and after December 25th, so much so that studies have been conducted to investigate the phenomenon.

Christmas Tree Syndrome is an allergy to Christmas trees, or more accurately, to the allergens that can collect on Spruce, Cypress and Pine trees that are popularly used as Christmas trees.

While there may be an allergy to pine pollen, the allergen does not necessarily come from the tree itself but from the pollen of the plants that grow around the trees that sticks to the branches before they are cut down.

But it is not just pollen that causes allergy symptoms.

In a study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in 2011, researchers found over 50 kinds of mould growing on Christmas trees brought from their own homes. Many of the varieties are known triggers for allergies.

Then there is the tree sap. Although it is rare to come in direct contact with it, it is also possible to have allergy to a component of the trees’ sap. Colophony or roisin is the sticky, amber sap from pine or spruce trees that can cause allergic contact dermatitis 1-3 days after coming in direct contact with it.

Do you have an artificial Christmas tree? Guess what?

Artificial Christmas trees can also cause asthma and allergy symptoms.

During storage artificial trees can gather dust and even mould if they are stored in a damp environment.

So, how can you have an allergy-safe Christmas?

1. Cover yourself. Wear long sleeves and gloves and place a towel or blanket over your shoulder to protect your skin when carrying your tree.

2. Wash your tree. When you bring your real tree home, give it a good spray with the hose to wash off any pollens and moulds that may have stuck to the branches and pine needles.

3. Shake your tree. If you have an artificial tree that has been in storage give it a good shake outside to get rid of any dust, and check it for mould before you bring it inside.

4. Wipe your tree and decorations. Like your tree, decorations that have been in storage since last Christmas may have collected some dust. Give your tree and decorations a wipe with a damp cloth to remove the dust without releasing them into the air.

5. Move your tree outside. If you or someone in your home continues to experience allergy or asthma symptoms, it might be best to relocate your tree outside (and consider an artificial tree in the future).

6. Scented candles. Scented candles are a lovely way to create a holiday atmosphere at Christmas time but they can be irritating for people with allergies so it might be best to choose scent-free candles. If you want your home to smell festive try heating a pot of water, add an orange, a few cloves, a cinnamon stick and some start anise and let them simmer over a low heat.

7. Food Allergies. Food is a central part of Christmas celebrations and we often eat things that are outside of our usual fare. If you or someone close to you has food allergies, remain vigilant about checking ingredients, at home and when visiting others, for potential allergens.

8. Be prepared. If you are visiting friends or family over the holidays and you or someone in your family is an allergy sufferer, find out whether there is a real Christmas tree in the house and take the usual allergy precautions.

Make sure you have your Asthma Action Plan, First Aid Plan and reliever medication up to date. Just in case.

Wishing you a wonderful, happy and safe holiday season.

If you, or someone close to you, struggles with hay fever and allergies, book in for a free Discovery Call to find out how I may be able to help so that you may enjoy the holidays safely.

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