Each year when I go to pick out a Christmas tree, I have a little tradition. I like to play the “Theme from Rocky” song. Not because I am determined to leave with the perfect Christmas tree (although I am a little obsessive about finding just the right one), but because I know that once that tree enters my home it is going to be a battle until the bitter end of the holiday season thanks to my allergies.
I’m sure many of you are thinking, “Why would she buy a live Christmas tree if she has allergy concerns?” One of the most common misconceptions about Christmas trees and allergies is that they are caused by the actual tree. However, since most Christmas trees do not produce pollen during the winter, the more likely culprits behind your Christmas tree allergies are mold, dust, or other allergens that have accumulated on the tree while it was in the field. In fact, some of the same allergens can collect on Christmas tree ornaments, home decorations, and even artificial trees while they are in storage.
Before you become a total Grinch and throw out everything Christmas-related, check out this list of tips for controlling your allergies and keeping your holiday spirit in tact:
- Choose Your Christmas Tree Wisely: Whether you want to add the rustic charm of a live tree to your Christmas decorations or you love the convenience of an artificial tree, make sure that you choose the tree that best suits your needs. For example, if you suffer from acute pollen allergies but still want a live Christmas tree, look for a Leyland cypress. A combination of Monterey cypress and Alaskan cedar, Leyland cypress are considered sterile hybrids because they do not produce pollen. When choosing an artificial Christmas tree, look for those made of molded polyethylene (PE) instead PVC to reduce exposure to off-gassing.
- Clean the Tree Thoroughly:Cleaning your tree removes a lot of allergy-triggering irritants. Before leaving a Christmas tree farm or lot, ask if they have a mechanical tree-shaker to remove dead needles as well as some of the dust and mold. Once you get the tree home, spray it with water or a veggie wash to get rid of the remaining mold and pollen. Then, let it dry completely (possibly overnight) before bringing it inside your home.To remove dust, mold, and other irritants that settled on your artificial tree while it was in storage, you can wipe it down with a dust cloth or spray the tree with water if it isn’t pre-lit. When cleaning either type of tree, don’t forget to wear gloves to prevent coming in contact with hazardous allergens, including sap that may be present on real Christmas trees.
- Add an Air Purifier to the Room: While dusting, shaking, and washing Christmas trees removes a significant amount of irritants, you can always count on a few rogue allergens left behind. Placing an air purifier in the room with your Christmas tree can help you maintain a healthy air quality by removing mold, pollen, dust, and other airborne irritants from the environment. If you are concerned about off-gassing from your artificial tree, air purifiers designed for airborne chemical removal—like the Austin Air Allergy Machine—can help combat toxic gases emitted by these synthetic evergreens.
- Don’t Forget About Your Other Holiday Decorations:Christmas trees aren’t the only potential source of allergy triggers in your holiday arsenal. Ornaments, wreaths, nutcrackers, and other holiday decorations that have been sitting in storage also need to be cleaned before they can safely deck your halls. Use a soft dust cloth to wipe plastic, metal, and glass ornaments along with artificial wreaths before hanging them. If you have fabric decorations such as holiday table runners, linens, or blankets, wash those with hot, soapy water.
- Storing Holiday Trees and Decorations: Get a head start on combating next year’s Christmas allergies by properly storing your artificial tree and holiday decorations. First, use a dust cloth to remove any debris and allergens that may have settled on them during use. Then, use sealed plastic containers to store the tree and other holiday decorations. Although many people use cardboard boxes to store their holiday goods, this practice actually encourages the growth of mold, mildew, and other allergens, especially when decorations are stored in damp, musty areas like basements, garages, and attics.
Alright, the Rocky theme song is cued and ready to go. So, put on that holiday vest that your Aunt Effie knitted and get the Santa hat ready because it’s time knock out those Christmas tree allergies and enjoy the holidays!