Is Christmas Tree Syndrome real? Local allergist says, 'yes'

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WESTERVILLE - Local allergy experts confirm the cold-like symptoms some experience before the holiday season could be caused by a Christmas tree in the home. However, Ohio ENT and Allergy Physician Dr. Roger Friedman says the likely source is not the tree itself, but the dust or mold growing on the tree branches.


"The live trees tend to cause more problems," said Dr. Friedman. "We used to think that it was due to the pollen, but pine trees don't pollinate in the winter. That's in the spring. The problem tends to be the mold. That's why washing the tree before you bring it in the house can wash off the mold." Dr. Friedman recommends carefully wiping down ornaments and spraying a Christmas tree before placing them inside a home.

"You want to bathe the tree and let it fully dry in the garage to help those family members who tend to see a reaction to the mold growing on the tree," said Dr. Friedman. He also said that among those people who put up a tree in their home, the so-called "Christmas Tree Syndrome" only impacts a fraction of people.

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According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, a person with an allergic reaction that occurs over several seasons may be allergic to the spores of molds or other fungi.

"Roughly a third of the population has some kind of allergy. Roughly 5, to 10-percent of the population, might be allergic to mold or trees," said Dr. Friedman. "Thus, the live Christmas tree might cause problems for some."

Mold spores become dangerous when they reach critical levels. For those who have a mold allergy, as well as those with other allergies or asthma, mold exposure can serve as a secondary trigger and make symptoms worse. Dr. Friedman said the mold proliferates most four to six day after being in the home. Because of that, he says someone who is sensitive to mold could take the tree out of the house after a week.