Healthy living

Christmas tree moulds may trigger allergies

Christmas tree moulds may trigger allergies Thrive in live trees

If you start to sneeze and snuffle during the festive season, it may have more to do with the live Christmas tree than the usual winter germs, a study suggests.

It found that a variety of moulds which naturally thrive in the damp foliage of conifer trees may be responsible for peaks of respiratory illness that occur around the Christmas holidays. Moulds reproduce by producing spores, and some types can trigger allergies in people who are susceptible.

The study, published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, analysed the moulds present on samples taken from 28 Christmas trees, including clippings, bark and needles.

The researchers from Upstate Medical University in New York identified 53 types of mould. Of these, 70 per cent of were potential allergens which have been shown to increase the risk of allergic symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and itchy eyes.

Lead researcher Lawrence Kurlandsky said: "If you and your children don’t have any obvious allergies, then it is probably not going to bother you."

However, for the more allergy-prone he suggests hosing down the tree and allowing it to dry off before bringing it into the house. An air purifier placed in the same room as the tree can also help to remove indoor allergens.

Research has also suggested that more spores are released the longer the tree is kept in the house in a warm environment.

A previous study sampled the air around a live Christmas tree in a room for two weeks. After four days the spore count started to rise from 800 spores per cubic meter of air to a peak of 5000 spores per cubic metre of air by day 14.

People who are susceptible to allergies should also consider removing the tree as soon as the main celebrations are over, Dr Kurlandsky said.

This article was published on Mon 19 December 2011

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