Is Your Christmas Tree Making You Sick?

It’s hardly Christmas without the tree as the centerpiece of the holiday, yet for some people, the big tree can be a source of misery. We know about allergies to obvious things like pollen and peanuts, but Christmas trees, too, can trigger allergic reactions.


(Pixabay / Lotus Head)

Both real trees and artificial trees can induce allergies. Real trees may come from the forest covered in pollens. They may also be hosts to molds that commonly grow on pine trees. Additionally, Christmas trees contain resins in their sap that can cause contact allergies. Fake trees often pick up deposits of mold and dust while they are being stored in the basement or attic throughout the year, making them an allergy risk, too.

Christmas tree allergies may manifest themselves with familiar allergy symptoms, including hay fever, skin rashes, coughing, and wheezing. If any of these symptoms crept into your life in the same time frame that you set up your Christmas tree, you may indeed have a Christmas tree allergy.

Reducing Christmas Tree Allergies

If you suspect you have a Christmas tree allergy, you can eliminate the problem, naturally by going without a tree. If that sounds unforgivably “bah humbug” to you, though, try these tips for minimizing your reactions to the tree.

If you prefer an artificial tree:

  • Hose it down before setting it up. After the holiday season, store it in airtight bags or plastic storage containers so allergens can’t creep in.
  • Choose trees that are not made of PVC. Although this is a common source material for artificial trees, it can stir up respiratory allergies. Opt for trees made of alternate materials (like polyethylene) that won’t cause coughing and wheezing.

For real trees:

  • Talk to the tree vendor about your allergies. Many tree lots have a mechanized “tree shaker” to shake the allergens off of trees. They may also be able to take a power hose to the tree to get rid of allergy-causing build up.
  • Avoid contact with tree sap. When setting it up, use gloves. The resins in the tree sap can cause your skin to break out in an uncomfortable rash.
  • Instead of pine, purchase a fir, spruce, or cypress tree. These types of trees are often less allergenic.

As an alternative, get creative and consider options other than the standard Christmas tree. There are some very clever alternatives including metal or plywood trees. They often give a modern, streamlined look to your holiday décor.

Though there are plenty of options for working around bothersome allergies, if you find allergies putting a significant damper on your life, consider an allergy treatment program. Allergy immunotherapy is the gold standard for allergy treatment. While medications may provide short-term relief, immunotherapy can desensitize your immune system to allergens for the long haul. It is available through subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots) and sublingual immunotherapy (oral allergy drops). Sublingual immunotherapy is generally considered to be safer than shots, and it is also more convenient since it can be dosed at home. Talk to your doctor to see how the cost of sublingual immunotherapy allergy drops compares to the cost of shots.

About The Author

Stuart H. Agren, M.D.

Stuart H. Agren, M.D. completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Utah and went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine from Tulane University School of Medicine in 1974. He completed additional training at L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and then established his private medical practice starting in 1975. Dr. Agren completed a mini-residency in Industrial Medicine at the Robert Johnson School of Medicine at Rutgers University and also completed training to become a certified Medical Review Officer.

Dr. Agren was the Medical Director at TRW and McDonnell Douglas in Mesa, Arizona and at Stauffer Chemical and Kennecott Copper in Salt Lake City, Utah. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University.

In his private medical practice, Dr. Agren specialized in family practice and allergy. In his work as a private practice allergist, he was one of the first doctors in the country to prescribe sublingual immunotherapy to his patients as an alternative to subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots). He has also been a trailblazer in the field of food allergy treatment and research, developing a program to treat multiple food allergies simultaneously using sublingual immunotherapy. Dr. Agren has been featured on local CBS, NBC, and ABC news affiliates and won the peer-nominated “Top Doc” award from Phoenix Magazine.

After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Agren became the Founder and President of AllergyEasy, which helps primary care physicians around the country offer allergy testing and sublingual immunotherapy treatment to their patients. Over 200 physicians in over 32 states use the AllergyEasy program to help their patients overcome environmental and food allergies and asthma.