Christmas is, for many, a magical time of year. The smell of the tree, the food, the family and friends. However, for those with Christmas tree allergies, this joy can be overshadowed by annoying flare-ups and constant symptoms.
Indeed, up to 35% of the UK population each year suffer from allergies caused by Christmas trees, with many people not even realising why it's happened.
In this article we take a deep dive into what causes what some describe as 'Christmas Tree Syndrome', share tips on prevention and how Hoover products can help reduce the impact.
Why does a Christmas tree cause allergy symptoms?
One might think it would be the pollen that causes hay fever-like symptoms, but the pollen in conifers have all been deactivated by December.
Instead, the main allergic triggers present in a real Christmas tree are dust mites, insect materials, mould, weed pollen and sap.
Dust mites - The dust that settles on Christmas trees as they grow can attract dust mites, a very common allergen which can trigger breathing problems and itchy runny noses. As you bring the tree into the home you bring these critters with you which can slowly enter the air and settle on surfaces - if the tree is shaken or disturbed they can be released in large quantities which can bring on symptoms much quicker and harsher.
Insect materials - Insects love a nice and warm Christmas tree and unfortunately that means they'll be coming along when you bring it home. Insect materials can include saliva and droppings which can cause nasty rashes and breathing problems if they're inhaled during the holidays.
Mould - Mould spores can grow naturally on fir and pine trees but are suppressed in cold environments as they await to be cut. However, when exposed to the warn environment of the home and especially central heating the mould can multiply rapidly. Mould growth is quite hardy and hard to get rid of which makes it one of the biggest problems with Christmas tree syndrome.
These mould spores can cause asthma attacks and other respiratory issues to those who inhale them which may not go away until the tree is brought down and removed by those who are not aware of the causes.
Weed pollen - Among the more obscure Christmas tree allergies is weed pollen which is caused by nearby weeds growing near the site of the Christmas trees. Weeds can pollinate in autumn which can be trapped in the branches and spines in the centrepiece of your holiday decorations and then be released inside your home.
Sap/Resin - The cause of that wonderful Christmas tree smell is also the cause of some pretty nasty rashes on your skin - sap. A freshly cut tree will still have some sap on the branches and trunk and if it gets into contact with skin it can be hard to get rid of and it is a common skin allergen trigger.
Is an artificial tree better for people with allergies?
Artificial Christmas trees are certainly better for people that are familiar with having allergic reactions but they can still cause them. The most common cause for allergy asthma attacks from artificial trees is from the dust they can gather in storage for the best part of 11 months.
How to prevent Christmas tree allergies
If you're adamant about getting an authentic feel in your home this holiday season then start by asking the supplier to shake the tree vigorously before it is packed into your car. This should get rid of a lot of the pine pollen, dust, insects and mould - but not all of them. If they can give the tree a hose down before it is wrapped even better.
Secondly, only handle the tree with gloves and try to cover the seats of the car with plastic so that any leftover materials do not get on the upholstery and trigger the itchy rash and watery eyes if you rub them accidentally.
Even with all of these efforts, the tree can still be full of allergy inducing particles. Mould can continue to multiply now it's in warmer environments.
The first tip is with placement, it's best to put a real tree in a cold or cool room where the doors can be closed isolating it - this can help stop the spread of asthma allergies throughout the whole house.
Secondly, a vacuum cleaner is essential in picking up any of the particles which have settled on surfaces such as carpets, hard floors, upholstery and furniture. As with the air purifier we recommend using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter so that it traps these allergy inducing particles so they do not get released back after a Hoover session. All of our Uprights have a HEPA filter as well cylinder vacuums.
Artificial trees are not as bad at carrying particles capable of causing an allergic reaction, but they still pose a risk to allergy sufferers in general. This is via the dust that can accumulate on them in storage which is disturbed and released as it comes down from the attic at Christmas. Your health can suffer greatly if enough of these get inhaled.
Again, our advice with a fake tree is the same as a real tree which is a shake (outside) and thorough wash before it's put up. This can be tricky if there are integrated lights on the tree so we recommend using a damp cloth or anti-bacteria wipes instead. You could even run through it with a cordless vacuum that has a handheld mode.
Mould can also grow on fake trees, especially if they've been kept in warm and damp environments all year.
An air purifier can also be useful to reduce the risk of symptoms by trapping the dust in the triple filters they have. Lastly, be sure to vacuum regularly over the holidays to pick up any excess particles from surfaces.
A wreath could become a medical issue for the family for the same reason as a real and fake Christmas tree. Wreaths made with spruce can have the same problems such as mould and dust which can lead to sneezing albeit at a small level. If the wreath is kept outdoors then it's not such an issue but if it on display indoors then you should try and wash it and be mindful of the dust and mould it could harbor.