What is Christmas tree syndrome and is it making us all ill?

Here’s everything you need to know…

christmas tree syndrome
(Image credit: Rex)

Here’s everything you need to know…

Autumn is gone, the cold weather is upon us and work colleagues and fellow commuters are starting to cough, sneeze and splutter around us - inevitably we’re all about to get ill.

But aside from the usual cold that plagues us all every December, there’s another condition to be wary of - Christmas tree syndrome - an illness you could actually be catching from your festive fir tree.

Yes - we’re gutted too.

If you were speculating that your Christmas tree might be making you sneeze, you could be on to something. Here’s everything you need to know about Christmas tree syndrome…

What is Christmas tree syndrome?

Christmas tree syndrome is a seasonal illness which as its name suggests is caused by your Christmas tree (and in some cases your Christmas wreaths too)! The allergic condition is caused by the presence of a Christmas tree in an inclosed indoor space, bringing with it mould that thrives and grows in warm environments (your sitting room/ bedroom), going on to cause respiratory allergies. The fact that Christmas trees stay in most houses for the best part of a month only heightens symptoms and increases your chances of catching the dreaded Christmas tree syndrome.

What are the symptoms of Christmas tree syndrome?

Many have compared the symptoms of Christmas tree syndrome to that of hay fever, with the most common complaints including coughing, wheezing, chest pains, lethargy, itchy noses and watery eyes. It can also apparently affect your sleep with some sufferers reporting insomnia as a result of their festive fir.

Is Christmas tree syndrome dangerous?

While in most cases, the condition has only minor side-effects and symptoms, it can apparently worsen respiratory problems for asthmatics and in some extreme cases lead to pneumonia which can be life-threatening.

How common is Christmas tree syndrome?

As its name would suggest, Christmas tree syndrome only affects people once a year, but (provided it's Christmas) it is fairly common, with the illness said to affect over a third of us.

How can I combat Christmas tree syndrome?

The condition only occurs when you have a real tree, so an easy way of combatting the problem is opting for a plastic tree instead. If however you can’t be without a festive fir, there are a few tricks for lessening the symptoms - hosing down your tree before erecting it, putting up the tree as late as possible to avoid prolonged symptoms and avoiding close contact with the tree (i.e. getting your other half to decorate it instead).

Jenny Proudfoot
Features Editor

Jenny Proudfoot is an award-winning journalist, specialising in lifestyle, culture, entertainment, international development and politics. She has worked at Marie Claire UK for seven years, rising from intern to Features Editor and is now the most published Marie Claire writer of all time. She was made a 30 under 30 award-winner last year and named a rising star in journalism by the Professional Publishers Association.