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On a tangent: "Christmas Tree Allergies"

For many of us, food allergies are but one of the many allergies we deal with - and even outside of the known link for those of us with Oral Allergy Syndrome, when our seasonal allergies are acting up our food reactions often follow suit.

Tonight, I received a question via from someone wondering how to get rid of his "Christmas tree allergies."  While I hope that none of us is actually eating a Christmas tree, my own environmental and food allergies are sufficiently related that I decided to post my answer (such as it is) here.

Without further ado, and as a fellow major Christmas Tree Sufferer...

First and foremost, I would recommend that you speak to an allergist about this.  They're the experts - not just in allergies but in figuring out how they might affect you in particular. 

That said, here are a few of the things that I have learned along the way, or that have worked for me (I have a very bad allergic reaction to them myself!).

  • I'm told that most Christmas tree allergies are actually to the mold and pollen that collects on the trees before they are harvested, not to the trees themselves.  Thus, I've heard it may help if you open up any wrapping on the tree before bringing it in, hose it down thoroughly and then allow it to air dry before bringing it in.  (Depending on climate this may or may not work very well).  Make sure you put your tree in a tree stand with water if you do plan to leave it outside, to make sure it stays fresh.
  • Consider a table-top tree: despite having small kids, we 'bit the bullet' and switched to a small, 3-4 foot tree 2 years ago.  Now I'm very attached to my ornament collection so we added various ornament displays in other rooms of the house (you can get pretty nice-looking ornament stands at IKEA for under $5 each!) so we could still enjoy all our favorites.  The improvement for my allergies was monumental - and we found it was really cheerful having Christmas color spread weaving through the kitchen, TV room and dining room table.  What's more, by setting our petite tree on a coffee table with its usual tree skirt, from across the room my brain seemed happy to be fooled into thinking it was full-size - while we gained lots of space to stack presents underneath the table!
  • When you set up your tree, put one of those plastic tree bags under it. I always find the worst allergy moment is when we haul the by-now-crackly-dry-and-rotting carcass outside.  Having one of those bags in place catches needles - along with the pollen, dust and mold sitting on them.  [Full disclosure: I buy one of these every year but have yet to remember to put it down at the key moment so I can't really tell you how much this actually helps!]
  • Avoid the wreath: odd as this sounds, I discovered that my allergies were being set off more substantially by the small wreath baking in the sun between my storm and front doors than they were by the tree in my living room.  Removing the wreath made an immediate and significant impact.
  • Whatever's causing your allergies, the more the tree and any other Christmas garlands or greenery in your home degrades, the worse they are likely to get.  Make sure your tree is well-watered and that any garlands are discarded as soon as they begin to look dry.  We found it also made a major improvement in my allergies when we set up a humidifier next to the tree and ran it continuously until the ornaments were packed up again and the tree removed.


Have any tips of your own for beating the "Christmas Tree Allergies"? Please add them in the comments!