The WellSpan Spotlight

Health and wellness

Sneezing around the Christmas tree

Sneezing around the Christmas tree

Stringing lights on the tree and feeling itchy? Hanging ornaments and constantly sneezing?

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, you might be causing these miseries.

Real and artificial Christmas trees are known to cause allergy symptoms, including sneezing, watery eyes, and an itchy nose.

Trees and allergies

Dr. Joshua Dunklebarger, of WellSpan ENT and Hearing Services in Chambersburg, says there tends to be a spike in allergies over the holiday season. Temperatures start to drop and the heat kicks on high in the house, which could cause the increase.

When hunting around your local tree farm for the perfect Christmas tree, a fresh-cut pine tree may not be the only thing brought into your home. Mold also can come with it.

Prefer the stored artificial tree in your basement instead? Allergens also may accumulate on it, due to the dust or humidity from storage if not covered properly.

Causes and symptoms

"Tree allergies are typically related to the mold that is on the tree itself. Studies have shown there are over 50 different types of mold on Christmas trees. If you have a mold allergy there is a high likelihood that you will have a significant problem with mold if it is on your tree," said Dr. Dunklebarger.

An allergy to the sap on a fresh Christmas tree will cause a rash. Other allergic reactions to the mold on either real or artificial Christmas trees can include itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose, and nasal congestion.


Dr. Dunklebarger suggests if you cut down a fresh tree from your local family farm, have it shaken off before bringing it into your home. If you are cutting down a fresh tree or bringing it up from storage to decorate with the family, wear long sleeves.

Also, don't leave your Christmas tree in your home too long. The longer the Christmas tree stays inside, the more mold spores can be released into your home.

For those who prefer an artificial tree, store it in a dry area with a cover to keep it from accumulating mold and dust.


Over-the-counter medications can be used if allergies spike over the holidays. If you are experiencing severe allergies that are not controlled with oral medication, contact a physician.

Don't be discouraged from adoring your Christmas tree. Get on top of possible allergies during the season so you can spend more time enjoying time with family and friends and less time sneezing and blowing your nose over the holiday season.