Can Christmas Tree Syndrome Make You Sick?

Because they’re not in our homes for very long, we often ignore the fact that Christmas trees are a source of mold. A mold-infested tree is known as “Christmas Tree Syndrome.” With approximately 13% of Americans suffering from some kind of mold allergy at any given time of the year and some people react negatively when in the presence of a Christmas tree.

This year, Americans will buy 25-30 million live Christmas trees to decorate their homes for the holidays. About 85% of those trees will be pre-cut weeks ahead of time – in most cases prior to Thanksgiving. The trees are baled and packed into refrigerated trucks to be delivered to a tree seller near your home.

After a live tree has been cut and moved to a lot to be sold, moisture and the tight bundling of the trees support an ideal environment for mold to grow. Once the tree gets into your home, the mold on it, if not taken care of, begins reproducing, triggering Christmas tree syndrome. About 7% of the general population with allergies suffers from Christmas tree allergies. This can cause wheezing, coughing, itchy nose, watery eyes, fatigue and problems sleeping, all of which is triggered by breathing in spores from the mold growing on Christmas trees.

The Research On Christmas Trees

In 1970, Dr. Derek M. Wyse wrote a report called “Christmas tree allergy: mold and pollen studies.” He said seven percent of people with allergies experienced a jump in symptoms when there was a Christmas tree in their home. Nearly 40 years later, another researcher, Dr. Phillip Hemmers, shared that he’d found that incidents of mold spores quintupled during two weeks of the holiday season. A few years later, Dr. Lawrence E. Kurlandsky and his team published found 53 species of mold, 70 percent of which were possibly harmful in sample clippings from 28 Christmas trees.

What Can You Do If You Believe Your Tree To Be The Cause Of Mold Infestation?

  • If you do have concern surrounding the Christmas tree in your home (and don’t want to get an artificial one), here are some tips.
  • Remember mold likes moisture, so before you bring your tree in, wash it and let it dry outside.
  • To clean your tree and kill mold at the same time, spray it with a combination of water and a bit of bleach. (It won’t damage your tree.)
  • Thoroughly shake the tree outside to get rid of some of the dust, pollen, and other debris.
  • Attack it with a leaf blower to further clean it out.
  • Don’t leave the tree in your home too long. Once the holiday is over, “treecycle” it.

If you have any questions or concerns about mold, in your tree or your home, contact a mold remediation professional for testing and consultation.