Christmas tree allergy nothing to sneeze at

Does the thought of putting up the Christmas tree fill you with dread instead of delight? Do you have visions of tissues and antihistamine instead of sugarplums dancing in your head?

Christmas trees and other decorations can trigger allergies in many people.

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Tree sap, pollen and terpenes — compounds that give pine trees their scent — can all make allergy sufferers sneeze. But those aren't the only irritants to look out for.

Live trees can be full of mold. A study last year at SUNY Upstate Medical University found 53 kinds of mold in live Christmas trees, reported. Most of those molds are potential allergens and are known to increase the risk of wheezing, persistent coughing and allergic sensitization in infants.

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A 2007 study, the website reported, found that a Christmas tree increases the number of mold spores in an apartment by about six times, and the mold count continued to grow until the tree was taken down.

Even an artificial tree doesn’t ensure a sneeze-free holiday season. After being stored for a year, ornaments, lights and artificial trees can be covered in dust, dust mites and, yes, mold.

So what is an allergy sufferer to do? Here are some tips help them breathe easier:

Live tree

If pollen is a problem, consider buying a Leland cypress tree. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, this hybrid is the most popular Christmas tree in the Southeast, and does not produce pollen or sap.

If your heart is set on a pine tree, there are several ways to minimize its effect.

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First, shake the tree outside to remove as much debris as possible. Then, hose down the tree using a mixture of bleach and water. says the solution "kills growing mold spores while washing away any leftover grime. It will not harm the tree." It might, however, harm any pets that chew on the branches. That's why suggests using a veggie rinse instead.

Since mold continues to accumulate on a live tree, consider throwing it out Dec. 26.

Artificial tree

Depending on how an artificial tree was packed away, it, too, will likely need to be washed. Dust and mold may have formed on the branches if the tree was not wrapped in plastic or in an airtight box. Trees with lights will need to be wiped down using a dust-free cloth.

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Before hanging ornaments on your tree, wipe down any that appear to be dusty or moldy. Glass, metal and plastic ornaments are easier to clean than fabric ones, so keep that in mind when buying new decorations. also suggests wrapping your ornaments in new paper before packing them back up, instead of the dusty paper they lived in the previous year.

By following these tips, allergy sufferers can enjoy festive holiday decorations without worrying about keeping the antihistamine stocked.

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