Beware Christmas Tree Syndrome

Asthma experts have warned that real Christmas trees can trigger asthma symptoms and nasty respiratory problems

Experts from the National Asthma Council Australia have highlighted “Christmas tree syndrome,” in which being allergic to real Christmas trees can cause wheezing, sneezing, coughs, sore eyes and potentially serious asthma attacks.

Trees such as cypress and pine can collect a high amount of pollen, they warn.

This pollen is not from the trees themselves, but from other plants.

National Asthma Council Australia Chief Executive Officer Siobhan Brophy said that that most people are unaware that real Christmas trees can harbour pollen and can trigger asthma and hay fever symptoms, especially when they are displayed indoors.

“Pollen can have a big impact causing your asthma symptoms to get worse,” she said.

And while artificial trees can be a safer alternative, they are not without their own problems.

“If used year after year, they accumulate dust, dust mites and even mould in storage,” Ms Brophy said.

“Even the most exciting part of the Christmas tree tradition – decorating – can put you at risk too, if decorations in storage have become dusty.

“You will have significantly fewer problems with asthma and allergies if you are well prepared and your Christmas and holiday surroundings are clean and free from dust and mould,” she said.

Fortunately, Australians with allergies and asthma don’t have to forgo their festive tree.

The National Asthma Council Australia offered the following tips for a lower risk of a festive season marred by respiratory symptoms:

Live Christmas tree in your home:

  • Hose down your live tree before you bring it into the house. This will help to wash off the allergens.
  • If you notice increased asthma or allergy symptoms, move your tree outside.

Artificial Christmas tree in your home:

  • Give your artificial tree a good shake outdoors, before putting it up inside.
  • Vacuum your artificial tree and decorations as you get them out of the box, unpacking them outside if possible.
  • Wipe down your artificial tree, wreaths, garlands and ornaments with a damp cloth to remove the dust.
  • When you pack the tree and decorations away, use airtight plastic bags and sealed boxes so they’re less likely to collect dust.

Ms Brophy urged Australians with asthma to be aware of their asthma triggers and manage them if possible.

They should also continue to follow their personal written asthma action plan and have medication on hand, including when out celebrating or on holidays.

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