Live Christmas trees may be a festive part of many families’ holiday traditions, but they can also harbor mold leading to severe allergies and asthma attacks.
“Mold loves moisture, so when you put the water in the tree, it’s a great place for mold to grow,” Dr. Weily Soong, an allergist, told Fox News on Dec. 1. “[I]t releases mold spores and people become allergic.”
People who experience sniffles and itchy eyes during holidays often attribute their symptoms to a cold, but doctors say this is actually “Christmas tree syndrome,” and is extremely common. Trees collect moisture when they’re stored outdoors before sale, and the problem is only compounded when they are brought into people’s homes.
Research from the State University of New York found that 70% of molds found in and on live Christmas trees can trigger severe asthma attacks, fatigue and sinus congestion. Even if mold isn’t present, preservative chemicals often sprayed on trees can cause similar symptoms.
These symptoms may present immediately upon exposure to the tree or any time within two weeks.
Families can hose down trees and let them dry thoroughly before bringing them inside to alleviate the problem.
But, Dr. Soong suggested, “If you’ve been tested before and you’ve had quite a bit of allergies to mold and trees, you definitely should think about getting an artificial tree.”
The Dangers of Mold
Generally, mold has been associated with respiratory problems such as asthma and sinus infections, but a new study on mice suggests mold may harm more than lungs. Researchers said at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting last month that inhaling mold spores had made mice anxious and forgetful — indicating harm to the hippocampal area of the brain.
According to the magazine ScienceNews, “The findings … may help explain some of the conditions that people living in moldy buildings complain about, such as anxiety and cognitive problems.”