An Australian woman suffered an allergic reaction that can make the holiday season not so merry or bright: Christmas tree syndrome.
Niki Waldegrave developed a painful rash while helping secure her family’s Christmas tree to the hood of her car. The Sydney-based journalist told the New York Post that she broke out in blisters on her forearms and hands as soon as she brought the seven-foot fir home.
“It was one of the worst feelings I’ve experienced in my life,” Waldegrave said. “We just put the tree on the top of the car and my arms started itching, but I didn’t think about it too much.”
Initially Waldegrave attributed the discomfort as eczema or allergies, which she’s had her entire life. It wasn’t until the family began decorating the tree that the pain worsened, and she began developing hives and open blisters.
“By the time I got to bed, I was covered from head to toe in angry red welts,” she recalled.
After showering and taking antihistamines, Waldegrave decided to head to hospital when she began wheezing, and bleeding onto her bedding. Doctors gave the 39-year-old stronger antihistamines and steroids which helped to lessen the swelling on her arms, legs and face.
Waldegrave shared that she had grown up with an artificial tree, and the family removed the fir from their home as soon as possible.
According to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, approximately 7 per cent of people experience an allergic reaction when exposed to coniferous trees. Like Waldegrove, the majority of sufferers experience symptoms such as wheezing, sneezing and skin rashes within the first 24 hours of exposure, however others develop a reaction after several days.
Researchers believe that although scrapings from pine and spruce trees revealed high traces of mould, no mould had become airborne in test environment. Tree pollens and balsam oils are believed to be the cause of Christmas tree syndrome symptoms.
A 2016 report revealed it’s not just Christmas trees that could be harmful; poinsettia, perfumed candles, Christmas cactus, frankincense, myrrh and other seasonal pollens could all pose a rare, but possible allergy risk.
Experts recommend that those who are prone to allergies stick with an artificial tree to avoid any potential triggers, and keep a supply of antihistamines and hydrocortisone creams on hand just in case.