Monday 22 January 2018

Your festive Christmas tree could be making you sick, experts warn

The Christmas tree is a menace for some. Stock Image
The Christmas tree is a menace for some. Stock Image

Chai Brady

A picture-perfect Christmas tree could turn out to be a festive nightmare over the holidays.

Experts are warning people to watch out for evergreen trees that could trigger allergies and result in "a miserable Christmas".

The mild and wet weather has encouraged the growth of mould on leaves and shrubbery.

If leaf mould spreads it can release spores and cause irritation.

Allergy expert Dr Paul Carson of the Slievemore Clinic in Dublin warned people of the risk, saying the mould can cause itchy eyes, runny noses and even trigger asthma attacks.

However, according to the director of the National Botanic Gardens, Dr Matthew Jebb, problems shouldn't arise as long as greenery including ivy, holly, mistletoe and pine are kept out of damp conditions.

"Unless your house is particularly damp I don't think it would be a problem," Dr Jebb said.

It should be noted that some of the festive greens can cause itching and even dermatitis.

Dr Jebb added that because mistletoe is mildly toxic, it might also affect some people.

"One thing that does affect people is ivy, which is quite allergenic. Sometimes on the inner wrist of your hand, the skin is very thin there, people can get very itchy. It can be unexpected because normally people wouldn't handle ivy much," he said.

Pine Christmas trees can "cause hay fever-like symptoms" according to Dr Carson, adding that a nasal sinus allergy is the most common type of allergy.

"If someone is very allergic to it, and they physically handle it, they can actually get dermatitis - an itchy skin rash," he said.

Food allergies can be particularly dangerous. People with nut allergies are particularly at risk as nuts are present in many traditional dishes like pudding. He said that some of his patients had been less cautious about their allergies after drinking alcohol.

Irish Independent

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