Christmas tree syndrome – do you have it? Six symptoms to watch out for

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Christmas tree sales are expected to rocket this year, with UK farms expecting to flog an extra two million. While many of us rejoice in the process of decorating a Christmas tree – an activity that will bring particular succour this year – it can be an ordeal if you suffer from Christmas tree syndrome.

According to Dr Daniel Cichi, GP and Medical Advisor at Doctor 4 U, Christmas Tree Syndrome is an allergy to real Christmas trees.

As he explains, the symptoms are similar to that of seasonal allergies such as hay fever.

“These allergies are triggered by the mould growth and pollen that is found on real Christmas trees,” says Dr Cichi.

How to spot

“Symptoms are very similar to seasonal hay fever and include sneezing, wheezing, a runny itchy nose, watery and itchy eyes, coughing, and red, itchy rashes on the skin,” explains Dr Cichi.

The allergy is more common than you think, affecting around a third of people who have real trees in their house, he says.

“However, many people do not realise that the tree is the cause of these allergies and may blame pets or dust,” notes Dr Cichi.

“The syndrome can affect all age groups, including young children, and is most common in those who are prone to allergies already, including hay fever and asthma sufferers,” he explains.

How dangerous is it?

According to Dr Cichi, it’s not necessarily dangerous. It can be a nuisance for many people and may mean they have to stay away from the tree or even the room it is in, however.

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“The syndrome could be serious in those susceptible to asthma, potentially triggering an asthma attack, and a tight chest and breathing difficulties,” he warns.

How to treat it

Luckily, there are a number of ways you can help minimise the chances of allergic reactions to real Christmas trees.

For starters, it would be wise to consider opting for an artificial tree over a real one, although this may be difficult if you and the family are used to having a real tree, says Dr Cichi.

It also benefits you much more having an artificial tree to avoid those allergy symptoms, which can be really debilitating for some people, he says.

“If you do have a real tree, try to limit the amount of time it’s in the house so it gathers fewer mould spores, for example, you may want to put your tree up a bit later in December or take it down earlier to prevent any allergic reactions,” advises Dr Cichi.

He continues: “Before bringing the tree inside ensure that you give it a good shake and put it in a cooler part of the house as warmth can actually promote mould spores to form.”

Furthermore, when you are decorating the tree, wear gloves and long sleeves to prevent any reactions on the skin, advises Dr Cichi.

“If you do develop symptoms of this type of allergy, take antihistamines and try and keep your distance from the tree,” he says.

Antihistamines are medicines often used to relieve symptoms of allergies, such as hay fever, hives, conjunctivitis and reactions to insect bites or stings.

“If you do have any concerns or find symptoms are not subsiding even after taking medication you should consult a health professional,” adds Dr Cichi.

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