Simple steps minimize yuletide allergies

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xmasAllergy sufferers cringe during one of the most celebrated traditions of the winter holiday season - trimming the Christmas tree.

Allergists say itchy noses, scratchy eyes and sneezing during the holidays can have more to do with what is on a holiday tree than the tree itself.

While festive fir trees have thick, waxy pollen, studies have never shown them to cause significant allergic reactions. The real culprits behind holiday sniffles are Christmas tree dust and mold, and the chemicals sometimes sprayed on fresh trees to control pests or reduce needle shedding, says Dan Atkins, a pediatric allergist at National Jewish Medical and Research Center.

To remove pollen from a real, untreated tree, take it outside and spray it down with a garden hose to dissipate any mold. Allow the tree to dry out completely before bringing it indoors.

Also, wash hands after unpacking decorations and wear gloves when handling real trees to keep sap away from the skin.

Artificial trees are no safe harbor either. Unpacking them also can trigger allergies.

Prevention begins with proper storage. Take the time to store artificial trees and decorations in dry areas, off the floor and in plastic bags, Atkins says. Wipe artificial trees down with a cloth both before storage and after retrieving the tree for a new year.

"If the (artificial tree) is in pieces on the basement or attic floor for a year, the tree will collect dust and mold," he says. "Just remember to keep it sealed in a plastic bag in an area that's free of dust and moisture."

source - Denver Post