Christmas trees could be to blame for a range of health complaints over the holiday season.
Don’t be too quick to judge those who feel under the weather over the holiday season – rather than seasonal overindulgence, it could be their Christmas tree making them ill.
The traditional centrepiece decoration has been blamed for triggering a range of health complaints, from wheezing and coughing to lethargy and insomnia.
The condition – “Christmas Tree Syndrome” – is caused by mould growing on the trees, whose spores lead to problems when breathed in.
It has been discovered by scientists from Upstate Medical University, part of the State University of New York, who carried out research after observing a peak in respiratory illnesses in the weeks either side of December 25.
The team analysed clippings from 28 Christmas trees including needles and bark, from a range of species, and found 53 cases of mold.
Of these, 70 per cent can cause symptoms including itchy noses, watery eyes, coughing, shortness of breath, chest pains, sinus congestion, feelings of fatigue and problems sleeping.
Some of the mold identified can even lead to long term lung problems and conditions such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
The mold occurs on the trees naturally, but thrives in the warm conditions of a well-heated home at Christmas.
The team, writing in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, also reported another study which found that after a Christmas tree has been on display for a fortnight, the number of airborne mould spores increases from 800 per 35 cubic feet to 5,000.
Dr Lawrence Kurlandsky, who led the research, said he had treated patients where there was a clear link between their illness and their Christmas tree.
“I have had patients where the association between illness and the presence of a Christmas tree seem to be pretty clear cut.
“I explain that there are nicer places to be on Christmas Eve than seeing the doctor and to perhaps just not have a tree or have an artificial one.”
For those not wishing to opt for this extreme option, Dr Kurlandsky has two other pieces of advice for those wishing to avoid falling victim to Christmas Tree Syndrome.
Firstly, hose down your tree in the garden and leave it to dry before bringing it inside. Then, to further reduce your chance, remove it swiftly after Christmas Day, long before the traditional Twelfth Night.
Photo credit: Earth 911