'Christmas Tree Syndrome' could make your family sick

'Christmas Tree Syndrome' could make your family sick

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Decking the halls is a fun family tradition around the holidays, but hanging those decorations could have hazardous consequences.

"Christmas Tree Syndrome," or CTS, can be deadly to family and friends who suffer from allergies, asthma, or other respiratory issues.

According to a study by Upstate Medical University, Christmas trees of all kinds, including their needles and bark, can house up to 53 different types of mold.

Artificial trees can also trigger CTS because they house dust and other spores.

The study says anything stored for 11 months will harbor harmful mold spores, including lights and ornaments.

The samples collected from various decorations during the study contained a variety of molds that could increase the risk of wheeze, persistent cough and allergic sensitization in infants.

Dr. Lawrence Kurlandsky, the lead researcher in the study, said the allergens may not affect all families, especially if family members do not have any obvious allergies.

For families that do suffer from allergies, the study suggests taking necessary precautions to avoid the seasonal illness.

To avoid CTS, try these preventative measures before hanging the stockings with care:

  • Wear long sleeves and gloves when handling the tree. You could be allergic to the sap.
  • Use a leaf blower to remove visible pollen.
  • Wipe down the trunk of the tree with a solution of one part bleach, 20 parts lukewarm water.
  • Spray the whole tree with water, then let stand in an enclosed outdoor area to dry.
  • Dust off the decorations – They’ve been stored away for 11 months in garages, basements, or attics which are known hangouts for mold and dust mites, which carry allergens. Wipe those decorations off thoroughly with a damp cloth when you take them out of storage.
  • Stop the scented sprays and flocking – Creating ambiance from a can could lead to irritated noses and throats, exacerbating respiratory issues. Instead, try a natural potpourri of water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange peels, simmering on the stove, to keep your home smelling fresh and festive.
  • Snuff the scented candles – yes, they can create that warm cozy feeling in your home, but they can also create respiratory distress in people with severe allergies, or asthma. Some scented, petroleum-based candles can produce soot, as well as irritating particles and gasses. Candles made from soy, hemp, or beeswax, or even ones using LED “flickering light” effects may be a better bet
  • Punt the Poinsettias – The cheerful, traditional plant is everywhere during the holidays. But did you know poinsettias are members of the rubber tree family? That means anyone allergic to latex could develop anything from a rash to severe breathing problems, just by touching or inhaling the allergen.
  • Check with the nursery where you buy your tree. Some have tree washing services available.
  • Don’t leave the tree up too long. Some evidence suggests the longer the tree is in the house and the warmer the environment, the more spores are released into the air.
  • Use an air purifier in the same room as the tree to help remove allergens.

For more information on CTS, click here.