Mold spores on Christmas trees can cause holiday allergies, experts say

Experts explain 'Christmas tree syndrome'

DETROIT – When it comes to the scent of the holiday season, there's nothing quite like a real Christmas tree. But for some people, Christmas trees can cause real problems.

The Leyland cypress trees at Penland Christmas Tree Farm in York, South Carolina, have two benefits: they hang well with heavy ornaments and don't make people sick.

The Leyland cypress is classified as a non-allergenic tree. For ;many people, trees lead to holiday sneezing.

Allergists call it "Christmas tree syndrome," which often causes itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and head congestion.

Doctors said it's not the work of the Grinch. It's due to mold spores.

"Those spores will continue to grow and accumulate in the home the longer you have the Christmas tree," said Dr. Patricia Lugar, an allergist and immunologist at Duke Health.

Residents can limit their allergies by cutting short the amount of time the tree is in their homes. They can also use an air purifier.

"If it's a HEPA air filter, you might be able to reduce some of the mold spores that are coming into your home off that Christmas tree," Lugar said.

Workers at Penland Christmas Tree Farm shake the spores off the trees.

"One of the things we try to do on all our trees that we sell on the farm is that we put them on our tree shakers and shake any of the grass or dead needles that are in the trees," owner Steve Penland said.

For many people, exposure to evergreen trees can result in adverse reactions, such as congestion, coughing, sneezing and irritation, experts said.

The Leyland cypress seems to cause the least irritation among the evergreen family, according to experts. The tree emits very low quantities of oleoresins and produces very little smell. It also doesn't produce pollen, experts said.

Residents with artificial trees and other decorations need to be cautious if the items are stored somewhere where they can collect dust, experts said. They recommend using a leaf blower to clear them or wiping them down before bringing them inside.

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