Evergreens and allergies

An evergreen tree, decorated and fragrant, conjures up Christmas for many people. But for the estimated one person in 10 who is allergic to mountain-cedar pollen, a live tree can be a harbinger of holiday misery.

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Evergreen, a member of the juniper family, and some of its close relatives remain popular as Christmas trees – especially among people who like to cut down their own trees, says Dr Dave Khan, associate professor of internal medicine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“During late November, mountain cedars begin releasing airborne pollen, the trees’ fertilizing agent,” he says. “Fortunately, the Scotch pines and Douglas firs that are the mainstays of most Christmas-tree lots don’t pollinate in the winter. But any live Christmas tree can cause allergies because anything from outside that’s brought inside is likely to bring mold spores with it.”

Molds — microscopic plants without stems, roots or leaves — reproduce by releasing spores into the air to settle on plant or animal matter and grow into new mold clusters. Far more numerous than pollen grains, mold spores also can cause allergic reactions.

“One thing you can try with a live Christmas tree is to treat it with a fungicide,” Khan says. “All in all, getting an artificial tree and keeping it dust-free is probably the healthiest bet for an allergy sufferer.”



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