Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Tree Allergies

Christmas is a beautiful time of year but for some, there is one thing that can ruin it and you wouldn't believe what it is: the Christmas tree. With well wrapped presents below and the beautiful assortments above, what would make a person not smile at the sight of it?

Answer: Allergies!

Believe it or not, there are many people who suffer from allergic reactions to their Christmas trees. This is known around the holidays as Christmas Tree Syndrome, which is caused by the mold that grows on trees. So technically, the trees themselves aren't the real problem. Its the mold!

Mold spores love damp evergreens, so they become best friends with the wreaths, boughs, and trees you may bring inside your home during the holiday season. Mold and their spores can increase the risk of wheezing and coughing for those with mold allergies.

Live trees, especially those on tree farms, spend years outdoors gathering various irritants such as herbicides and fertilizers. These irritants, along with air-born pollens and molds, stick to the trees needles and bark. Trees that are ready to be purchased are usually harvested well in advance of Christmas and stored in moist holding areas before they are beautifully staged in someones home.  This makes it worse for people with allergies because this gives mold spores time to develop and grow, which is exacerbated when they are in stored in cramped, damped areas.

Connecticut researchers found that the mold counts from a live Christmas tree increased six times the average level after only two weeks after the tree was brought indoors. When inside, the same spores that usually float freely outdoors, now float freely inside your home. Floating mold spores can trigger allergies, asthma, and sinus issues. Additionally, bringing your tree in and out of your home and adjusting the branch limbs while hanging decorations can release many of these allergens.

For those who suffer from mold allergies, it is important to limit the amount of time the Christmas tree is kept indoors. The recommended time that people with mold sensitivity keep a live tree in the house is no more than two weeks.

Many who suffer from mold allergies opt for an artificial tree. While most allergist generally consider artificial Christmas trees a great alternative to a live tree, they can still present allergy concerns. Although artificial trees can reduce the risk of mold exposure, they can still trigger allergic reactions if they have been improperly stored and are carrying significant amounts of dust.

If you cant resist not having a live Christmas tree, then there are some measures you should take. Make sure you wash the entire tree along with its branches before bringing it inside your home. Some nurseries that sell Christmas trees also provide washing services. You just have to ask.  After washing the tree, let it sufficiently dry before bringing it inside. Doing this will prevent the growth of any new mold. Since mold spores can accumulate the longer the tree stays in your house, make sure you removed the tree 1-2 days after Christmas. 

For those buying an artificial tree and plan on saving it, keep in mind that, by next year, it will probably be coated in dust. This can certainly trigger an allergic reaction so be sure to store your tree in a cool, dry place and securely wrap it when you are done.

Whether purchase a live or artificial tree, Hudson Allergy would like to wish everyone a happy and allergy-free holiday season. If you live in the New York City area and would like to speak with a doctor about your allergies, please contact Hudson Allergy at (212) 729.1283 or email us at

photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Prepare Yourself For NYC’s Winter Allergies

There is no place better to be for the holidays than in New York City but for many with allergies and asthma, the winter season can be the furthest thing from jolly. Those with pollen allergies may get a break with the cold weather but if you are allergic to the common winter allergens, spending winter months inside your NYC apartment can vastly affect your allergy symptoms.

Every household has potential allergens and here are some of the most common triggers for indoor allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (AAAI):

Dust: Dust can be made up of many things, including tiny bits of plants, skin, insects, fibers, and animal matter. Any of these, or a combination of substances, could trigger indoor allergies.

Dust Mites: Dust mite allergens thrive on dust and are a common trigger of allergy and asthma symptoms. They can be found throughout the house, thriving in warm, humid environments such as bedding, carpeting, and upholstered furniture.

Indoor Mold: Indoor mold and mildew thrive on dampness usually found in basements and bathrooms. Once they take hold, mold and mildew shed tiny spores and these spores trigger indoor allergy symptoms.

Pet Allergens: It is important to know that there are no “hypoallergenic” breeds of dogs or cats. An allergic reaction is caused by a tiny protein in an animal’s saliva. Believe it or not, even homes without pets may contain dander, the dead skin flakes that can be found in the animal fur, on furniture and in household dust. This is because pet dander is sticky, light, and can easily cling to cloth, shoes, and hair.

More than 50 million Americans are allergic to everything from dust and dander to mold and mites. Due to the cold weather, people tend to spend more time indoors, which can irritate your allergies. Anything from dust mites, pet dander, smoke, fumes and other chemicals can trigger symptoms. When it gets cold, people tend to use their furnaces more, which sends dust and mold spores into the air, which can get into your nose and trigger an allergic reaction.

You can develop an allergic reaction at any time and even if you've never found yourself sneezing from your grandmother’s cat or the new flowers you planted the backyard. This is because you can suddenly have an allergic reaction to something at any age, even if it’s never happened before.

One of the challenges with winter allergies is that they are commonly mistaken to be symptoms of the common cold. As a result, it can be hard to determine which one you have. Here are a few tips on how you can tell the difference:

Indoor allergy symptoms
  • A running nose
  • Watery/Itchy eyes
  • Symptoms linger for weeks
Cold symptoms
  • Discolored (yellow or green) nasal discharge 
  • Chills and body aches/pains
  • Symptoms linger a week or 10 days

With holidays just around the corner, here are a few tips to minimize the presence of allergens, especially the ones more prevalent during the winter months. If you have a Christmas tree, you may consider buying an artificial tree to avoid aggravating any tree allergies. Be sure to dust off ornaments before hanging them up if they’ve been sitting in a box for a year. Also consider buying plastic ornaments over fabric ones, as they tend to collect and hold on to less dust, and if you are traveling, consider bringing your own pillow to ensure that it’s clean and allergen free.

Don’t let allergies pester you over the holidays. If you live in the NYC area and think you are experiencing symptoms of winter allergies, schedule an appointment at Hudson Allergy. If it seems right, the doctors can perform a skin test to help identify the issue and provide you with a proposed action plan on how to remedy or improve the allergy. You can call (212) 729-1283 or schedule an appointment online here.

photo credit: Squirmelia via photopin cc