It’s that time of year when families everywhere are getting out the decorations and beginning to spruce up the home for the holidays. And if for you that includes a Christmas tree, you may be getting an unwanted gift along with the homey pine tree scent that mark the season: Christmas Tree Syndrome!
Pollen, dust, mold, and pesticide residues are all potentially lurking on the pre-cut pine trees that are synonymous with the season.
When you think about the path that the Christmas tree takes to get to your house, it’s not surprising. Christmas trees are typically cut and harvested sometime in October. From there, they get wrapped, stacked and stored for weeks. Over that time, mold spores, dust and pollen get trapped in the damp, cramped tree branches and travel with the tree all the way to the neighborhood Christmas tree lot where you purchase it.
Once you’ve found the perfect one, it’s strapped to your car roof and – next stop – your warm living room! And this just happens to be the perfect environment for the dust and mold that’s been hiding among the needles to spread through your home.
About 25% of the population are sensitized to mold – making it highly likely that they will not be in the holiday spirit if they have a reaction, no matter how beautifully decorated the tree is. I don’t know about you, but growing up, without fail, someone in my family would have a wicked allergy attack right before Christmas.
It’s been found that 70% of the molds found on live Christmas trees can set off reaction. Symptoms vary but can range from asthma attacks, eye/nose/throat irritation, illness (like colds or other viruses), runny nose, congestion, sneezing and fatigue.
This year, more than ever, no one needs the concern of extra health complications or respiratory issues during the winter holidays. So with that, let’s talk about how you can keep the mold out when you bring your Christmas tree into your house this Christmas season.
First off, consider cutting your Christmas tree yourself. With that you avoid the storage and distribution conditions that foster mold growth to begin with. Plus you can find a farm that avoids pesticides. And a real bonus: you’ll be supporting a local community farmer. Here is a listing of choose-and-cut farms in the area I live. Lots of choices, but go early in the season to get a good one!
Don’t bring the tree inside right away, especially if you go with the pre-cut option. Place it in a bucket of water, unwrap it and give it a good clean. If you have a leaf blower, blow off all the pollen, mold spores and dust outside. Then spray the tree with a vinegar solution. After the treatment dries, give the tree a good spray with a garden hose. You can use the leaf blower to help dry the tree, and leave it outside in the sun for several hours before bringing it into your home.
Limit the length of time your live tree is in your home. Studies show that mold spore counts rise the longer the tree is inside.
Run an air purifier in the same room with your tree. The high efficiency filter traps mold spores and reduces your family’s exposure dramatically.
Consider buying an artificial tree as an alternative, if someone in your family is allergic to mold. Even these trees can gather mold if they are stored in a damp attic, so be store it away in an airtight wrapping after the holidays. Assemble the tree outside where you can shake out any debris, and even pull out the leaf blower to give it a good clean.
Whichever type of tree you choose, following these easy steps can keep the gift of holiday cheer in the air all season long!