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Christmas trees that have been stuffed away may carry hidden diseases

Your Christmas tree may add a bit of festival sparkle to the home but could also unwittingly trigger a severe asthma attack.

The National Asthma Council says artificial trees brought out from storage after a year of being dormant could harbour dust, dust mites and even mould.

Similarly, real trees like the Cypress and Pine can also collect a high amount of pollen from other plants before being cut down, triggering asthma and hay fever symptoms once they’re put up inside the home.

National Asthma Council sensitive choice partnership manager David Furniss said Christmas tree syndrome is something most people probably don’t think much about.

“If we’ve got an artificial tree, it’s probably been wrapped in plastic or a bag or something and stuck in a cupboard somewhere for 12 months and we get it out, thinking nothing of it, not realising it’s full of dust and mites and possibly mould, which could really cause us a problem,” he told Perth radio 6PR.

“For a live tree, it’s not realising it’s probably picked up pollens and other things by being outside.”

Real or fake trees can spark allergic reactions. Photo: David Nielsen / The Queensland Times
Camera IconReal or fake trees can spark allergic reactions. Photo: David Nielsen / The Queensland Times Credit: News Regional Media

Being allergic to a Christmas tree — often called Christmas tree syndrome — causes wheezing, sneezing, coughing, sore eyes, and potentially serious asthma attacks.

It’s likely someone suffering an allergic reaction to the tree, whether artificial or live, may not realise where it’s coming from, Mr Furniss said.

But you can limit exposure to the asthma and allergy triggers hiding in the branches fairly simply.

Live trees can be hosed down before being brought into the house to help wash off allergens, or moved outside if you notice increased asthma or allergy symptoms.

“It’ll probably freshen it up anyway and make it last a little bit longer,” Mr Furniss said.

“But when you put it inside if you’re still feeling a bit crook, take it outside again and maybe do something outside with it.”

QST Christmas decor - generic
Camera IconArtificial trees should be shaken and wiped down when brought out of storage. Credit: Supplied

Artificial trees should be given a good shake outdoors before being put up inside.

The tree and decorations should also be unpacked outside where possible and vacuumed and wiped down with a damp cloth to remove dust.

“That’ll probably get rid of most of the things that might be causing you some problems,” Mr Furniss said.

At the end of the season the trees should be packed away using airtight plastic bags and sealed boxes so they’re less likely to collect dust.

If your Christmas tree triggers your asthma, you should follow the asthma plan developed with your doctor, or if you don’t have an action plan, take four separate puffs of a blue/grey reliever.

If symptoms persist or worsen, follow the steps in First Aid for Asthma.

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