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Christmas Tree Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms And Prevention

Christmas is incomplete without a tree. The twinkling stars, the scent of a pine tree and shiny ornaments have already made people go on a Christmas mood. While people are busy decorating their homes with a Christmas tree, along the way, a common type of mould is all ready to reproduce and spread allergies, commonly known as 'Christmas Tree Syndrome' (CTS). [1]

What Is Christmas Tree Syndrome?

According to a study [2] published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, there are around 53 distinct kinds of mould present in around 28 types of Christmas trees, among which 70% of them are potentially harmful and responsible for triggering the allergic reaction. In short, CTS is a seasonal allergic reaction caused due to mould present in the Christmas tree. When the tree is brought inside the house, the allergen in it grows and multiply in the warm environment of the house causing mild to serious allergies to people who stays inside. The condition prevails once during the year but affects a large number of people and can be life-threatening in severe conditions.

Causes of Christmas Tree Syndrome

Out of 1 million fungi, there are around 80-100 genera responsible for mould allergy in people. The main mould responsible for CTS is Aspergillus, Alternaria, Cladosporium, and Penicillium. [3] Usually, the mould does not cause harm when stays in Christmas trees but, when the tree is allowed at home during the Christmas season, they start growing at a faster rate due to the moist and warm environment inside the house.

When the mould multiplies, they cause respiratory allergies to people present in the house and if any of the family members have a weak immune system or other forms of allergies like asthma, hay fever or flu, they act as a secondary trigger and increases their symptoms.

Symptoms Of Christmas Tree Syndrome

Symptoms of CST is similar to flu, hay fever or other allergies. The common symptoms of CTS are as follows: [4]

  • Wheezing
  • Itchy nose
  • Persistent cough
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Chest pain
  • Skin rashes

How To Prevent Christmas Tree Syndrome

  • Use an artificial tree instead of a real Christmas tree.
  • Even if you are bringing the real tree to home, first wash it thoroughly and let it dry.
  • Place the Christmas tree in the cold corner of the house to prevent the growth of mould to some extent.
  • Spray bleach to kill the harmful allergens.
  • Place an air purifier in the same room where the Christmas tree is placed.
  • Don't put the Christmas tree inside the house for more than 4-7 days.
  • If you have asthma or serious allergy, keep your inhaler and nasal sprays always with you.

Note: When you feel the Christmas tree is making the symptoms worse, immediately place it outside the house and contact a medical expert.

View Article References
  1. [1] Wyse, D. M., & Malloch, D. (1970). Christmas tree allergy: mould and pollen studies. Canadian Medical Association journal, 103(12), 1272–1276.
  2. [2] Kurlandsky, L. E., Przepiora, J., Riddell, S. W., & Kiska, D. L. (2011). Identification of mold on seasonal indoor coniferous trees. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 106(6), 543-544.
  3. [3] Twaroch, T. E., Curin, M., Valenta, R., & Swoboda, I. (2015). Mold allergens in respiratory allergy: from structure to therapy. Allergy, asthma & immunology research, 7(3), 205–220. doi:10.4168/aair.2015.7.3.205
  4. [4] Wyse, D. M., & Malloch, D. (1970). Christmas tree allergy: mould and pollen studies. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 103(12), 1272.
Story first published: Wednesday, December 25, 2019, 7:00 [IST]
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