It's the most wonderful time of the year, when many people will be grabbing an artificial tree from storage or heading out to get a live tree for the season. However, there are some dangers to bringing a tree into your house. By now, most of us know about the potential fire hazards trees create, but there is another very dangerous issue with them - Christmas Tree Syndrome.
An estimated 7% of the population suffers from the condition and many don't know it until they've wound up in the hospital. That's what happened to one mom in Ohio, who was so excited to decorate her first real tree with her daughter, only to notice hours after bringing the evergreen into the house that her face had swollen. She thought it might just be stress or TMJ and didn't think much of it, but it got worse. Her cheek got hot and itchy, then her hands, feet and tongue swelled up. She couldn't swallow and her throat started to close, causing her to wheeze. She was rushed to the hospital, where she collapsed upon arrival. The diagnosis: an allergic reaction also known as Christmas Tree Syndrome.
Contrary to its name though, Christmas Tree Syndrome isn't an allergic reaction to the tree rather to the mold spores that come with it. The mold forms after the tree is cut, when it is bundled. Then, when it gets wet, the mold really starts to grow. Studies have found more than 50 types of mold on Christmas trees but the most popular one is Aspergillus, which can be very dangerous to anyone with a compromised immune system. Penicillium and Cladosporium are also prevalant, and they cause skin infections and other symptoms associated with allergic reactions.
Usually the reaction is just a rash and some slight difficulty breathing, but it can be worse. To make sure it doesn't happen to you, experts recommend hosing off your tree and letting it dry before you bring it in. This will get rid of any pollen and mold. They also suggest wearing gloves and long sleeves while carrying it and decorating it, wiping down the trunk, getting rid of it the day after Christmas, and using an air purifier in the room where the tree stands.
Your best bet is to use an artificial tree, but they could be problematic too, depending on where they've been kept, so those should be wiped down as well and always stored in a cool and dry place.
The mom in Ohio said, "I never thought in a million years that a Christmas tree could contain something that could kill me." Even after getting rid of the tree, the mold lingered, and so did her symptoms. So if you do bring in a live tree, always be mindful of how you're feeling.