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Jason H. Friesen, M.D.

Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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Am I allergic to my Christmas tree?

Posted by on in Allergy
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151201ChristmasTreeAllergy-325For many, bringing a fresh Christmas tree into the house signals the season of holidays. But when the tree goes up, some people start to experience allergic-like symptoms and may worry that the tree is at fault.

Is there such thing as a Christmas tree allergy? The answer is complex and a number of things could be to blame:

Mold allergy – Research has found that Christmas trees carry many varieties of naturally occurring mold on their needles, branches, and trunk. About 10% of people have an allergy to one of these molds. As the tree is brought into the warm, indoor environment, the molds proliferate and people's exposure increases enough to give them noticeable symptoms.

Irritant rhinitis – A common condition that mimics allergy is vasomotor rhinitis (or "irritant rhinitis"). It is often triggered by strong smells and classically presents as fits of sneezing followed by nasal congestion and a drippy, watery discharge. A fragrant Christmas tree could set off such symptoms in a sensitive individual.

Viruses – While not related to the Christmas tree, December is, of course, viral season and sometimes an infection's start coincidentally times itself with the arrival of the tree.

Allergy to the tree – While this might seem the most logical, it is probably the least likely. Tree allergy is almost always due to pollen being released in their proper season. Very few trees, if any, are releasing pollen in December. Further, when tested, very few people are known to be allergic to tree pollens from common Christmas trees (fir, spruce, pine, hemlock).

If you're having allergic symptoms—coughing, sneezing, runny nose or itchy, watery eyes—this holiday season, talk to your allergist.

Tagged in: Christmas Mold

Board certified in pediatrics, as well as allergy and immunology, Dr. Jason Friesen sees patients of all ages. Caring and bright, he is passionate about finding a balance between the seriousness of food allergies and the importance of leading full and normal lives