Mold and Christmas Trees

Mold occurs throughout the environment, growing virtually anywhere there is the moisture, food, and the temperatures needed to support it.   Most types of trees can harbor mold, which feeds upon the leaves and bark of those trees as well as upon the dirt and debris that collects on them. The mold that grows specifically on conifers can cause allergies in those people who are sensitive to that mold.  Persons who experience headaches, coughing, sneezing, fatigue, watery eyes, wheezing, or any other allergic symptoms such as experienced with “hay fever” in the winter may actually be allergic to their Christmas tree, or more specifically, to the mold that grows on live and fresh-cut Christmas trees.  This allergic reaction is sometimes referred to as “Christmas Tree Syndrome.”

Research has shown that mold levels within a home can rise by as much as five times the usual level in the presence of a live or fresh-cut Christmas tree.  There are steps, however, that may be taken to help to reduce this mold but, if symptoms are problematic, it may be best to simply avoid fresh trees and use an artificial tree instead.

If foregoing a fresh-cut or live Christmas tree is an unthinkable option, try running a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter in the room where the tree is placed to assist with removing airborne mold spores.  Know also that live and fresh-cut trees can also harbor (in addition to mold) grass and weed pollen, particularly the late-season ragweed pollen that is a notorious and common allergen.  Washing and drying the tree before it is brought inside might help with both mold and pollen, but the tree must be thoroughly dried or the additional moisture may actually accelerate mold growth.  Minimizing the amount of time a fresh tree is kept in the home can also help reduce mold levels within the air.

When using artificial trees, it is important to remember that they too can aggravate mold allergy if they are stored in such a manner that t allows them to develop mold or mildew.  Artificial trees are commonly stored in attics and basements, both of which can harbor mold and spread that mold to objects stored there.  Compounding the problem is the storage of these trees within the large cardboard containers in which they were purchased.  Mold can grow readily on that cardboard and spread to the contents within.  Additionally, artificial trees can gather dust while displayed and while stored, and this dust can also be an irritant to people.  Artificial trees should be wiped clean of dust and stored in plastic off the floor.

Whether live, fresh-cut, or artificial, taking simple steps to reduce allergens on Christmas trees can help make the holiday season healthier and happier.

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