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Is Your Christmas Tree Making You Sick?

Are you constantly coughing, sneezing, and congested at this time of the year? Do you have to take a break from decorating your Christmas tree because of swollen eyes and a runny nose? You might not be suffering from a simple cold. You might, in fact, have a Christmas tree allergy.

Over the five to ten years that a fir, spruce, or pine tree grows on a Christmas tree farm, it accumulates a host of irritants and harmful substances, including pollens, herbicides, fertilizers, and molds that stick to the tree's needles and bark. This accumulation doesn't stop when the tree is cut and hauled indoors. Many trees are harvested weeks before Christmas and stored in moist holding areas before they're sold, which means that these allergenic mold spores have time to develop and grow. When you bring one of these trees into the enclosed sanctuary of your home, these microscopic spores are now capable of floating freely in the air you breathe every day. Mold counts in indoor air can significantly increase after the introduction of a Christmas tree. This can trigger allergy symptoms and cause allergic individuals to exhibit symptoms of asthma and sinus issues.

I know what you must be thinking: I'm never giving up my Christmas tree! Luckily, you don't have to. There are a few simple techniques you can use to make your tree safer and enjoy the holidays without sneezing or sniffling.

If you still want a real tree, the best way to make it healthier is to thoroughly spray it down with a hose prior to bringing it indoors. After giving it a good rinse, make sure it dries thoroughly to prevent the growth of new mold. Pick a sunny day to buy your Christmas tree, so that it doesn't freeze and is able to dry completely.

However, if you have allergies of any kind, it is best to avoid purchasing a real tree. If you really can't bear to go without one, whether because of the lovely scent or the tradition behind it, then follow the suggestions above and do not keep the tree in your home for longer than seven days.

The other option, of course, is to buy an artificial tree—but this doesn't mean you'll be out of the woods just yet. Artificial trees can still harbor accumulated dust, so make sure to thoroughly wipe off your artificial tree outside before bringing it indoors. And when all the presents are unwrapped and your holiday decorations taken down, be sure to store your tree in a cool, dry place, and wrap it securely so it's as fresh and non-allergenic as possible for next year's holiday celebrations.

I know what you must be thinking: I'm never giving up my Christmas tree! Luckily, you don't have to. There are a few simple techniques you can use to make your tree safer and enjoy the holidays without sneezing or sniffling.

Our nutrition expert Peta Cohen has been a clinical nutritionist and metabolic specialist since 1996. Peta specializes in addressing underlying metabolic changes that occur as a result of lifestyle choices and aging to prevent diseases, and deals with root causes of complex and chronic health issues. Her extensive clinical experience and research have led her to share her knowledge at seminars and conferences worldwide. In Peta's posts for the BoomSpot, she shows that great health starts with you and gives practical tips on how to improve it right now.

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