Is Your Christmas Tree Ruining Your Holiday?

How To Avoid Allergies To Your Christmas Tree (And Other Holiday Decorations)

close up of christmas tree with ornaments
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There is so much confusing information out there about which type of Christmas tree is better for your health and the environment, especially if you happen to be allergic to Christmas trees or pine trees. Should you get real or artificial? What about an eco-friendly alternative? Would a live tree be the best choice?

The truth is, there are pros and cons to all the alternatives.

For example, real trees can harbor mold, dust, and pollen, and some people are allergic to tree sap.

But the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) cautions that artificial trees also can be an allergy trigger, since they too harbor dust and mold. Many fake trees are made of PVC, which emits toxins into your indoor air and can irritate your lungs.

The ACAAI reports that true pine tree allergy is pretty uncommon, but if you have this allergy, there are other live types of trees you can choose that may not trigger your allergy. Or, you can consider an artificial tree.

Whichever alternative you choose, here are some tips for reducing indoor allergens and having an allergy-friendly Christmas.

Tips for Real Christmas Trees

Choose an allergy-friendly tree: If pine pollen is a major allergy trigger for you, a fir, spruce, or cypress Christmas tree may be a better bet. The Leyland Cypress is a sterile hybrid tree, which means it does not produce any pollen.

Shake it up: If you buy your tree at a farm or lot, they may have a mechanical tree-shaker that will remove dead needles as well as some of the dust and mold.

Wash your tree: Spray off your tree with water and allow to dry overnight in the garage before putting it up. This will remove some of the loose mold and pollen that is on the tree. Allow the tree to dry thoroughly before bringing indoors. Using a veggie wash may help to remove more mold and pollen than spraying water alone, and will also help to remove the residue of any pesticides that have been sprayed on the tree.

Set your tree up outside: If you love the look of a Christmas tree but your allergies are getting in the way of enjoying your holiday, try setting the tree up on your porch or in front of a large window. You can enjoy the tree while sitting indoors, away from the pollen and dust. People who purchase live trees (which you plant after Christmas) report that they do best when kept outdoors for most or all of the holiday season.

Tips for Artificial Trees

Wipe it down: Artificial trees may also harbor dust and mold, since they spend a lot of year sitting around in boxes. Wipe them down with a dust cloth, or take them outside and hose them off if they are not pre-lit.

Choose a tree with less off-gassing: Some new artificial trees are made of molded polyethylene (PE) instead of PVC, which may have lower levels of out-gassing. These trees are very realistic, and tend to be more expensive than PVC trees.

Try an eco-friendly alternative tree: Some of the creative alternative trees have a modernist design sensibility, others are more basic.

Here are two possibilities:

Tips for Christmas Decorations

Dust your ornaments: Christmas ornaments have been sitting in a box all year, and may also be coated in dust or mold. If possible, unwrap them outside to avoid spreading dust inside your home. Wipe them off with a soft cloth before hanging. At the end of the season, wrap your ornaments in new paper, rather than re-using old, dusty paper.

Clean your wreaths: Artificial wreaths can be vacuumed or dusted with a soft cloth.

Avoid scented candles: Scented candles can cause stuffy noses and irritated lungs. If you crave a little atmosphere with your holiday meals, try unscented beeswax candles.

Use allergy-friendly candy: If you decorate your tree with candy canes or other candies, be sure to use allergy friendly candies.

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