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15 December 2020, 11:21
A third of people are believed to have an allergy to real Christmas trees - but blame their winter sniffles on pet fur, dust or having a seasonal bug.
For sufferers of Christmas Tree Syndrome, just being near a fir is enough to trigger a sneezing fit - but most are blissfully unaware that it's caused by an allergic reaction.
The symptoms are similar to that of seasonal allergies such as hay fever, and they are triggered by the mould growth and pollen that is found on real Christmas trees.
The syndrome can affect all age groups, including young children, and is most common in those who are prone to allergies already, including hay fever and asthma sufferers. It could trigger an asthma attack, or cause a tight chest and breathing difficulties.
Dr Daniel Cichi, GP and Medical Advisor for Doctor 4 U spoke to Heart.co.uk about the syndrome, its causes and how to treat it.
He said: "Christmas Tree Syndrome is more common than you think, affecting around a third of people who have real trees in their house.
"Symptoms are very similar to seasonal hay fever and include sneezing, wheezing, a runny itchy nose, watery and itchy eyes, coughing, and red, itchy rashes on the skin.
"However, many people do not realise that the tree is the cause of these allergies and may blame pets or dust."
For some sufferers, it can be so severe that they need to stay away from the tree or even the room it is in.
Luckily, there are a number of ways you can help minimise the chances of allergic reactions to real Christmas trees.
The simplest is to opt for an artificial tree over a real one. This might be a hard swap for families used to having a real one, but it would totally remove the allergy symptoms which can be really debilitating for some people.
Dr. Cichi added: "If you do have a real tree, try to limit the amount of time it’s in the house so it gathers fewer mould spores, for example, you may want to put your tree up a bit later in December or take it down earlier to prevent any allergic reactions.
"Before bringing the tree inside ensure that you give it a good shake and put it in a cooler part of the house as warmth can actually promote mould spores to form.
"When you are decorating the tree, wear gloves and long sleeves to prevent any reactions on the skin.
"If you do develop symptoms of this type of allergy, take antihistamines and try and keep your distance from the tree."
It's also really important that if your symptoms persist that you contact your doctor or call 111 as soon as possible.