Happy December, everyone. December means the holiday season has arrived. Even people who get upset about hearing Christmas music before Thanksgiving must admit that, come December, it’s officially the holidays, and listening to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” on repeat is totally acceptable.
For many Americans, a Christmas tree is a huge part of getting into the holiday spirit. Beautifully decorated (or, if you have children, sloppily decorated with years of school crafts and homemade ornaments), filled with lights, strung with garland. Getting together as a family and decorating the tree can be one of the best parts of Christmas. And for some, the tradition of going out as a family and cutting down your Christmas tree adds to the tradition.
For others, getting the tree out of a box in the attic is the first step.
For the millions of allergy sufferers, the question is: real tree or artificial tree?
There’s a lot of misinformation and half-truths out there about Christmas tree allergies. And when it comes to indoor allergies, air quality is everything. And here at Capital Heat, we eat, sleep and breathe air quality. And air. But everyone does that.
So here’s the deal with real Christmas trees and why so many people cite allergies to them.
- Pine trees (as well as citrus fruits) contain a family of compounds called terpenes. When contained indoors, terpenes can cause allergy-like symptoms in those with sensitivity to them. However, it’s unlikely that a live Christmas tree would be the first or only time a sensitivity to terpenes was detected, as terpenes are often used as the scent in household cleaners, perfumes, etc.
- Pollen allergies are often cited as the reason for a fake tree. But nature tells us that most plants, including conifer trees, pollinate in the spring. So while there may be traces, it’s unlikely that a pollen allergy is responsible for your December allergies.
- The real culprit in live Christmas trees is typically mold and mold spores. Sensitivity to mold is extremely common and produces allergy symptoms. Many live Christmas trees will come into your home with mold spores on the tree, so anyone with a particular sensitivity will have a strong reaction that can be traced to the tree.
But don’t get ahead of yourself. An artificial tree may solve some of these problems, but it also may create a few of its own.
- As common as mold allergies are, dust allergies are just as common. And artificial trees tend to collect duct. Storing it properly doesn’t eliminate dust that’s been collected while it was performing its Christmas duties.
- Artificial trees can also harbor microscopic mold spores if stored incorrectly.
- Depending on the quality of the tree, chemicals and substances used in production may cause reactions to those with asthma or other respiratory sensitivities. Spray snow or other aerosol products are full of irritating compounds.
So now we’ve established that both real and artificial trees are terrible. How do we save Christmas!?
- Whether you have a real or artificial tree, spray it down or wash it well before setting it up in your house to remove any pollen, dust or mold that may have settled on it.
- Make sure it dries thoroughly before bringing it inside. If it’s dry outside, leave it there for a few days (make sure live trees are set up in a bucket of water – you want the outside dry, not the inside!).
- Store your artificial tree properly in the off-season. Make sure the tree is dry and clean. Store it in a plastic bag inside a plastic box or container, in a dry place.
- Freshly cut trees are significantly less likely than pre-cut trees to come with a side of free mold.
- Make sure your house isn’t in cahoots with your Christmas tree. Forced air systems can be really tough on those with severe allergies. Make sure your ducts are clean and your filters are fresh. We can help.
For some, an artificial tree is the best option. Others can’t imagine a tree that doesn’t come with falling needles and that fresh pine scent, or the annual trek through the snow to cut down the perfect tree. Whatever you prefer, know the steps you can take to make sure your holiday season is safe and not miserable from allergy symptoms. (Oh yeah, and any artificial decorations you have, such as wreaths, garlands, etc. come with the same risks as artificial trees. Treat them the same way.)
Happy Holidays, from the Capital Heat family.