Every year, my family scours a local tree farm in search of the perfect Christmas tree. Last year was no different. We spent hours examining the trunk, bulk and health of at least one hundred different evergreens. When all of us were satisfied with the selection, my father dragged it to the car, drove it home and promptly set it up in the living room. The next morning, I woke unable to breathe. My eyes and throat burned; I was desperate for a tissue. But I had been prepared. I had known that my dependence on allergy medications would return. Why? Because as much as I love the Christmas tree, it doesn’t love me, and I’m not alone.
An estimated one in seven individuals is allergic to Christmas trees. Bringing the fragrant fir inside can increase spore count by five times that of the normal level, triggering a mold allergy. Noses will run. Eyes will water. Lungs will wheeze, and rashes and headaches will follow, all in the name of Christmas. The only way to avoid this is to avoid the tree or at least limit exposure. Researchers are recommending having the conifer for no more than four to seven days, since their studies showed that spore quantity continually increased with time, hitting its peak at 14 days (when they removed it from the home). But if you can’t imagine the week before and the week after Christmas not being filled with a huge, green monstrosity, take heart. There may be other reasons for your sniffles.
You store your decorations in the attic, the basement or the depths of your storage closet. For the better part of the year, they sit in the dark collecting dust and mold. When you take them out, you’re exposed to that. Then, you start rearranging your house. All the dust mites that you “clean regularly” start shuffling around, filling the air. In about five and a half seconds, you’re sneezing and coughing.
So, don’t blame the tree right off the bat. It could be your shoddy storage/cleaning habits. But if it is the mighty evergreen, consider altering your traditions to cater to your health. A few days less of a live tree, won’t be the end of Christmas.
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