The Health Reporter Is In: Dec. 6, 2017

The Health Reporter Is In: Dec. 6, 2017

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Q: Are there any good ways to keep allergy symptoms down with live Christmas trees? We're considering getting a fake one this year, but hate to give up getting a real tree. And I've read artificial trees can also aggravate some allergies.

A: Most people who suffer from itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and a runny nose from live Christmas trees have a mold allergy and are reacting to the mold a live tree brings with it inside.

But it's true, artificial trees can also prompt allergy symptoms to kick in — especially if they've been stored in a damp garage or basement, and/or weren't covered after they were taken down the previous year and put back into storage.

Dr. John Zech, a Carle allergy specialist, said he understands people have certain holiday traditions and some patients prefer live trees.

And allergic rhinitis is treatable. Short-term symptoms from a Christmas tree can be helped by over-the-counter allergy medications, he said. And people already getting regular allergy shots will likely suffer less.

"Everything can be managed," Zech said.

There are a few other things people can do before they even bring live Christmas trees into their homes, he said.

One of them is to take the tree lot up on its offer to shake the tree before loading it into your car. That does more than get rid of loose needles. It also cuts down on the dust and dirt you're bringing into the house.

"Why not get rid of as much debris as possible," Zech suggested.

Secondly, you can clean the tree when you get home. Spray it off with water and let it dry before bringing it inside, he said. You can use a leaf blower to help speed up the drying process. (Be sure the tree is completely dry before you bring it indoors!)

Lastly, cut down on the time you leave a live tree in your home, Zech advised. Once you get it out of the house, the mold level indoors will return to pre-Christmas tree level.

Artificial trees are another solution, Zech said. But if an artificial tree has been stored in a way that it may also be a source of mold and dust, you can consider taking it outdoors and cleaning it before bringing it inside, he said.

Ideally, when you take the tree down at the end of the season, the pieces should be covered with plastic bags, Zech said.

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